Published in the Lynn Haven Ledger, September 2011
Let’s Talk About PAD Article by: Jennifer Clark, PA-C, MPAS
eripheral arterial disease is a very common condition affecting between 8-12million Americans. This number is expected to increase even more so as our population ages. Interestingly, only about 15% of those people have been diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), while many people continue to attribute their symptoms of leg pain to “old age.” So what is the big deal about PAD anyway? Why is this so important to prevent? The arteries in our body are responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrient rich blood from the heart and lungs to the rest of the body for the organs and tissue to use. PAD is a narrowing of the arteries which is caused by a build-up of plaque, a waxy material made up of cholesterol, calcium and fibrous tissue. When the arteries are narrowed, this decreases the amount of blood flow to the body. When we exercise our muscles demand more oxygen, and when the arteries have narrowing it prevents them from getting this oxygen they require. This can cause weakness or painful cramping in the hips, buttocks, thighs or calves that resolves with rest which is called claudication. As the disease progresses people can develop severe symptoms such as rest pain or formation of ulcers to the legs and feet. Eventually this disease can progress to the point where the artery can become totally occluded and often times patients may require amputations. There are certain risk factors that make people more likely to develop PAD. This disease effects patients more commonly over the age of 50, in fact, the current statistics reflect 1 in every 20 adults over the age of 50 have PAD. Smoking or a history of smoking increases the risk of developing this condition by four times! Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot use sugar or glucose appropriately therefore there are elevated amounts of glucose in the blood. This causes the walls of the artery to become rough, which allows for plaque to form and build up within the artery. High blood pressure has a similar effect on the walls of the artery. Blood pressure is a measurement of the amount of force the blood pushes against the artery walls, the higher the blood pressure the more damage to the walls of the artery which allows for the plaque to build up. Uncontrolled cholesterol is a risk as well. Your body makes both good and bad cholesterol. LDL, also known as the “bad cholesterol” is a particle that carries cholesterol in the blood and deposits it in the arterial walls. The good cholesterol (HDL) helps to pick up excess plaquing from the artery walls. By understanding this you can see how if you have an elevated LDL and a low HDL this promotes plaque formation within the arteries. If you have any of the above mentioned risk factors or if you are experiencing symptoms of claudication then you should make an appointment with your primary care provider for further evaluation and treatment. Treatment for PAD begins with modifying risk factors such as the ones listed above. Controlling your cholesterol, Diabetes, and high blood pressure helps stabilize and improve arterial disease. Healthy diet and exercise along with stopping smoking benefits your body in so many ways. Walking programs often help improve the symptoms of PAD by promoting increased circulation. Various medications are also available to help improve symptoms. Interventional treatment with athrectomy and angioplasty may be required as well. Article continued on the back
PAD is a lifelong disease process, but early intervention and prevention can significantly improve quality of life. Knowing about risk factors and symptoms will help to identify this condition sooner so that treatment can be initiated sooner.
Published in the Lynn Haven Ledger, September 2011 Article by: Jennifer Clark, PA-C, MPAS PAD is a lifelong disease process, but early inter...