ROCKINGHAM — Peripheral arterial disease is a condition that develops when the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the internal organs, arms and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of plaque buildup, known as atherosclerosis.
PAD, which can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, amputation and possibly death, affects eight to 12 million Americans, which is why September is recognized as PAD Awareness Month.
There are many possible side effects of atherosclerosis including angina and heart attacks if the coronary arteries are involved; strokes and transient ischemic attacks if the carotid and vertebral arteries are involved; and claudication, non-healing leg ulcers and critical limb ischemia if the lower extremity arteries are involved. 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.
“While some with PAD do not experience symptoms, people should be aware of certain factors that put them more at risk,” said Dr. David E. Strom, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbarics. “Smokers are four times at greater risk, African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have PAD and one in every three people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have the disease.”
Strom recommends the following action steps to help manage PAD:
• Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, correcting blood pressure and cholesterol numbers — Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for the development of PAD. Managing these conditions can help improve blood circulation.
• Developing healthy eating habits and an exercise plan —Exercising can help increase the circulation and reduce pain in the lower extremities. Walking, hiking and bike riding are good exercise options. A personal trainer can help tailor a custom workout plan that best fits a person’s needs.
• Medications — Always consult with a physician about which medications may help PAD and if they are needed.
• Special procedures and/or surgery — In some severe cases of PAD, surgery may be needed to open arteries that have narrowed. Consult with a physician to see if surgery is a necessary treatment.
Managed by Healogics, which bills itself as the nation’s largest provider of wound care services, FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbarics is located at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham. For more information on PAD or services offered by the clinic, call 910-417-3636.
Brenda Bouser works in corporate communications for FirstHealth of the Carolinas.