Jennifer Landry, Physician Assistant at Bethel Family Health Center discusses:
Vascular Traffic Jams
There may be nothing worse than being stuck in rush-hour traffic when you are trying to get somewhere important. You inch your car closer and closer to the one in front of you and you repeatedly change lanes to whichever one is moving the fastest. You try everything just to move faster and to arrive at your final destination. But no matter what you do, you are still late.
Just like a road congested with traffic during rush-hour, your veins and arteries may become clogged with plaque (fatty deposits) build-up, causing poor circulation or other vascular problems such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
What is PAD? Peripheral arterial disease is a condition in which the blood of the lower limbs, commonly the pelvis and legs, cannot pass through efficiently. Plaque builds up in the artery wall, blocking blood passage. If plaque builds up too much or becomes brittle, blood flow could be completely blocked or a blood clot may form.
What are the PAD Risk Factors? Not every risk factor can be controlled such as aging or having a personal or family history of PAD, heart disease or stroke. However, there are some factors that can be controlled, and if done so, can greatly reduce your chances of developing PAD. The following risk factors are controllable:
What are the Symptoms of PAD? The most common symptom of PAD is painful cramping in the hips, thighs, or calves when exercising, walking, or climbing stairs. Because muscles rely on heavier blood flow when they are being used, any kind of blockage in the arteries will cause pain. Some other symptoms of PAD are: foot pain, foot or toe wounds that do not heal, gangrene, or a marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot.
What are the Treatments and Medications? Treatments of PAD focus on symptom relief and preventing disease progression. The following are recommended treatments of PAD:
Exercise: Start slow (a 10 minute walk) and build up to 3-4 times a week of moderate exercise
Diet: Focus on keeping cholesterol low by eating foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol
Eliminate or at least reduce tobacco use
Medication: Speak to your healthcare provider today about medication options
Procedures: Discuss surgical options with your healthcare provider if lifestyle changes and medications are not enough
Peripheral arterial disease may lead to other serious health problems such as heart attack or stroke. Take action today and speak to your healthcare provider about PAD and your risk factors. An early diagnosis can add years to your life!