PAD or Peripheral Arterial Disease can cause severe, even constant pain, due to blocked arteries in the legs or arms. McLeod Vascular Surgeon Carmen Piccolo, DO says it can result in amputation – but can be treated.
Here are highlights from Dr. Piccolo’s comments:
The most serious form of peripheral arterial disease that can occur if untreated is called “critical limb ischemia.” This is where you have tissue loss in the lower extremities – especially of the foot and toes, which may require amputation of the leg. In addition, peripheral arterial disease is a marker for other widespread atherosclerotic diseases. Stroke and heart attack, especially if left untreated, are very prevalent in patients with peripheral arterial disease.
PAD is really a marker for whole body or systemic atherosclerotic plaque build up in the arteries. It occurs not only in the extremities, such as the legs and arms, but also can occur in the arteries supplying blood to the brain, as well as your heart.
Treatment for PAD starts with medical therapy. The first step is lifestyle alterations, including a heart-healthy diet, stop smoking, control your blood pressure and get your diabetes under control. These can be done in combination with anti-platelet medication, such as aspirin, and the use of cholesterol-lowering agents. But remember, never start any aspirin regimen without checking with your physician first.
In severe forms of PAD, where patients have debilitating pain in their legs or have progressed to a more serious form, they can have tissue loss or ulcerations (wounds) on their feet. There are two types of treatment options, depending on the severity of a patient’s PAD and the location of the disease.
Many patients are able to undergo minimally invasive techniques, such as angioplasty and stenting, done through needle insertions in the groin or arm. Other people might need a full surgical bypass around the blockage in the extremity. Most can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.
One other thing is very important for PAD patients: an exercise program that’s approved by their doctor. This should be aerobic activity, such as walking or biking. In particular, walking can be very useful. Patients should be exercising about 30-minutes a day, 3 days a week. Again, make sure this program is approved by your physician.
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