PAD, or peripheral arterial disease, is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases, affecting more than 9 million Americans.
PAD is caused by a buildup of plaque in the major arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your legs, feet, arms and pelvis. Over time, this plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, restricting blood flow to affected areas. Individuals often refer to the reduced blood flow in the lower extremities as “poor circulation.” Those with PAD are at a higher risk for having hardened arteries that lead to the heart and brain, increasing their chances for having a heart attack or a stroke.
Bingham Memorial’s Dr. David Shelley says that early detection and treatment of PAD is important for maintaining proper circulation in the body.
The classic symptoms of PAD are “cramp like” muscle fatigue or heaviness in the legs, and discomfort or pain that occurs in the buttocks, thighs or calf muscles while walking or climbing stairs. The pain typically stops five to 10 minutes after you rest or stop the activity. Other symptoms include coldness, numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, and ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don’t heal.
PAD is serious, but can be fixed if diagnosed early. The most common test for PAD is the Ankle-Brachial Index or ABI. This painless exam uses a special stethoscope to compare the blood pressure in your feet and arms. Based on the results of your ABI, along with your symptoms and risk factors for PAD, your physician can decide if further tests are needed.
Treatments for this condition usually include lifestyle changes and medications to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A foot care program to prevent sores or infection may also be prescribed. In cases where blockage cannot be resolved, an Interventional Radiologist such as Dr. Shelley can perform a variety of minimally invasive procedures, such as balloon angioplasty and stenting.
Dr. Shelley encourages men and women over the age of 50 to be alert to the symptoms of PAD. Talk to your doctor about the risks, and ask about the simple tests that can diagnose reduced blood flow to your lower legs. If you or a loved one would like more information on PAD and available treatment options, you can reach Dr. Shelley’s office here in Blackfoot at 785-3800, or Pocatello at 233-4938.