Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. There are many possible side effects of atherosclerosis including chest pain and heart attacks if the coronary arteries are involved; strokes and transient ischemic attacks if the carotid and vertebral arteries are involved; and non-healing leg ulcers and blood flow restrictions if arteries in the legs are involved.
One in every 20 Americans older than 50 years of age have PAD. In all, PAD affects eight to 12 million people in the United States. Slightly more men than women have the disease. Common risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis and age. An estimated one out of every three people with diabetes over the age of 50 has PAD, making it one of the primary co-morbidities of diabetes. Due to the prevalence of PAD, September was named Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month by the US Senate in 2007.
Healthcare professionals use many avenues for diagnosing PAD such as medical history, tobacco use, physical exams and diagnostic tests. An ankle-brachial index (ABI) test may be performed, as well. An ABI test is painless and easy, and involves a comparison between a blood pressure reading in the ankles and a blood pressure reading in the arms. An ABI can help diagnose PAD, but it cannot identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked. A Doppler ultrasound test may be done to see which artery or arteries are blocked.
PAD poses particular problems for health care professionals and patients with chronic wounds. Chronic toe and foot sores are common in people with PAD, as are cramping, numbness, weakness or heaviness in the leg muscles. Many patients with PAD do not experience symptoms. That’s why the Advanced Wound Center at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center performs tests for PAD, treats chronic wounds which may have underlying conditions of PAD and counsels patients on how to manage PAD.The Wound Center at Conemaugh recommends the following action steps to help manage PAD:
For more information, contact the Advanced Wound Center at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center at (814) 534-6840.