PINEHURST — One in every eight Americans over the age of 60 has Peripheral Arterial Disease. In all, PAD affects as many as 12 million people in the United States. Slightly more men than women have the disease. Due to the prevalence of PAD, September was named Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month by the US Senate in 2007.
Peripheral artery disease develops when arteries become completely or partially blocked with plaque deposits that limit blood flow to the legs. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or even death. Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the legs does not always cause symptoms, so many people can have PAD and not even know it. People who do experience symptoms, such as pain or cramping in the legs, often do not report them, believing they are a natural part of aging or due to another cause.
Common risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity, atherosclerosis and age. As many as six million people with diabetes are affected by PAD, making it one of the primary co-morbidities of diabetes. Chronic toe and foot sores are common in people with PAD, as are cramping, numbness, weakness or heaviness in the leg muscles. Individuals who have any of these risk factors should ask their health care professional about PAD. A physician can check for signs of the disease with a simple test of pulses in the feet.
“While some with PAD do not experience symptoms, people should be aware of certain factors that put them at higher risk,” says David Strom, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and medical director of FirstHealth Wound Care and Hyperbarics. “Smokers are at four times greater risk, African Americans are three times as likely to have PAD, and one in every three individuals over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have the disease.”
FirstHealth Wound Care and Hyperbarics recommends the following steps to help manage PAD:
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, correcting blood pressure and cholesterol numbers
- Develop 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 surgeries- 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.
- Regular foot exams can identify any open sores early.
For more information on the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers or chronic or infected wounds, contact one of the three FirstHealth Wound Care Centers: Moore Regional, Specialty Centers Building at 35 Memorial Drive in Pinehurst, 910-715-5901; MRH-Hoke, Medical Office Building at 6322 Fayetteville Road in Raeford, 910-878-6750; or MRH-Richmond, Outpatient Center at 925 Long Drive in Rockingham, 910-417-3636.