Know the signs of Peripheral Vascular DiseaseDr. Veita Bland / September 9, 2022
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Throughout the year, we pay special attention to various illnesses. We try to bring information to the forefront about these health conditions. One of the conditions that we highlight this month is Peripheral Vascular Disease or PAD. This is an insidious condition that robs many people of their freedom and their lives.
Did you know that it is estimated that a leg is amputated every 30 seconds worldwide due to diabetes? Did you know that 65,000 to 75,000 amputations are performed in the United States each year? Did you know that African Americans are more likely to undergo amputations than Caucasian Americans? Did you know that 8,000,000 people live with PAD in the U.S. today? All of these statements are true.
PAD occurs when the arteries that carry blood to your extremities are blocked. Those life-giving arteries may become blocked by plaque or cholesterol and the blood is not able to make its way to an extremity. When this happens in the arms, it may result in the loss of a finger, a hand or an arm. When this happens in the legs, the result may be the loss of a toe, a foot or a leg.
We see this same mechanism in the brain, which can lead to a stroke or in the heart, which could lead to a heart attack.
There are certain medical conditions that seem to invite PAD to the table. We know that one in three people, who are 50 years of age and older with diabetes will develop PAD. We know that people who have health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease or chronic kidney disease are all at an increased risk for PAD.
If you smoke or use tobacco products, there is a four times greater risk that you will develop PAD. People who have little to no physical activity are also at an increased risk of developing PAD. One of the most important PAD risk factors is whether a person has a family history of PAD. If so, that also increases one’s PAD risk. Risk of developing PAD also increases after the age of 60.
One of the most shocking facts is that the African American population faces an increased risk of developing PAD that is two times that of the Caucasian American population.
So, what are the signs and symptoms one should be looking for? Leg cramping is one of the symptoms. If you notice that one time you could walk four blocks with no difficulty and now you have cramping in your legs while walking two blocks, that is a symptom of PAD.
If you notice that at one time you had a lot of hair on your legs and now the amount of hair has decreased or is nonexistent, this is a problem.
If you notice that sores on your extremities are taking a longer time to heal, there may be a problem. If there are discolorations on your feet that are purple in color, there may be a problem. If you are experiencing pain, numbness, heaviness in your legs and cold feet while you are simply resting there may be a problem.
One mind blowing fact is that 40 percent of people who have PAD will have no symptoms. Therefore, everyone must be proactive in making sure PAD does not affect you. Make sure you have your healthcare provider examine your feet and legs. They may want to do testing to make sure there is adequate blood supply in those areas. In addition to taking one’s blood pressure in the legs, Doppler or ultrasound studies may be conducted as a way of accessing the arteries. Blood work is needed to check one’s cholesterol and renal function.
There are things you can do to fight PAD. One is to become and stay active. If you smoke or use any tobacco products, stop them. They are extremely damaging to your body. Eat a diet that is heart healthy such as fruits and vegetables. Limit fatty and salty foods. Take good care of your feet. Get prompt, proper care for those bunions, calluses and fungal infections and make sure your shoes fit well.
PAD is a disease everyone must be aware of and fight. Now, go out and get those feet checked.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.