How Healthy are Your Arteries?

Have you wondered if you are getting enough blood flow to your feet? Do you ever experience pain in your legs that wakes you up at night?  If you go to the grocery store, do you get a cramping pain in your legs that makes you stop walking, and then start again once the cramping has stopped?  If so, you may have peripheral arterial disease, also know as P.A.D!

Peripheral arterial disease affects approximately 8- 12 million Americans.  Yet half of these people who have the condition, don’t know it and therefore do not get treatment.   Three out of every four with the disease either don’t have symptoms or mistake it for another condition. In addition, older patients often associate not being able to walk as far, with solely aging.  Unfortunately, these symptoms then lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which is counterproductive, when the best treatment is exercise! Exercise can actually improve your circulation, as it allows the body to form new arteries. There is no limitation for what a patient with peripheral vascular disease can do or not do.  But, keep in mind that peripheral arterial disease takes years to develop, therefore it will take time to improve.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Without getting treatment, you are at a greater risk of a stroke, heart attack, or worse.  The older you get, the greater your risk is for developing peripheral arterial disease. Some factors that increase your risk are smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity. In fact, smoking increases your risk four-fold.

The cramping, pain, or tiredness is due to a lack of blood flow, caused by a blocked artery in the leg.  Part of the problem with the symptoms is that they are often vague, which can challenge a physician’s ability to diagnose.  More than half of patients with circulatory problems in their extremities also have coronary or cerebral artery disease.

Peripheral vascular disease is diagnosed by clinical exam and often, a series of noninvasive vascular testing.  These noninvasive tests are painless.   They often involve an ankle-arm index test as a first line.  This involves putting pressure cuffs on your extremities, which measures pressure changes.  In addition, an ultrasound is often ordered, which gives further detail about the location of blockages.

If peripheral arterial disease is left untreated, it can sometimes lead to gangrene or amputation. Failure to diagnose these blocked arteries elsewhere in the body can lead to more serious conditions, or death when involving the heart or brain.  Unfortunately, peripheral arterial disease is usually under-diagnosed and under-treated.

If you have, or someone you know has any of these peripheral vascular disease symptoms, contact Kansas City Foot & Ankle at 816-943-1111 as soon as possible.  The doctors at Kansas City Foot & Ankle are experts in the diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease!