Understanding PAD

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, can result from a build-up of plaque or fatty deposits in blood vessels outside the heart or brain. If left untreated, PAD can lead to amputation, heart attack or stroke. While legs are the most common site for PAD, it can also occur in your kidneys, stomach and arms.

Most people with PAD never feel any symptoms. Some may experience leg pain while walking, but the pain goes away when they rest. Other signs include pain, cramping or fatigue in the thighs, calves, hips or buttocks, foot pain that continues after exercise and foot, toe or lower leg wounds that take too long to heal.

You may be more susceptible to PAD if you are:

  • Age 50 or older
  • Suffering from high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • A smoker
  • Overweight
  • From a family with history of cardiovascular disease, stroke or diabetes
  • Being treated for diabetes

PAD and Diabetes

Those with diabetes are prone to PAD. The combination of these two conditions significantly increases a person's risk of heart attack or stroke at a younger age.

Because those with diabetes have reduced feeling in their feet and legs, they often do not feel symptoms of PAD and it goes undiagnosed and untreated. The reduced blood flow from PAD can also lead to longer wound healing, which may increase the risk of amputation.

It's important for those with diabetes to carefully control their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and to get checked for PAD. The Diabetes Treatment Center at Desert Springs offers free Ankle Brachial Index screenings to check for PAD. For more information, contact the Diabetes Treatment Center at 702-369-7560.

PAD and Wounds

Those with PAD often have chronic toe and foot sores. Obstructed or restricted blood flow can make wound healing difficult because oxygen-rich blood is reaching the wound. If PAD and the wound(s) are not treated, tissue can die. When living tissue dies, it builds up and can spread infection. Wounds of this type need medical attention to carefully remove dead tissue and encourage new living tissue to grow.

Wound care specialists work closely with PAD teams to coordinate care. A treatment frequently used to treat non-healing wounds is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where a patient enters an oxygen chamber and breathes pure oxygen.

For more information, contact Desert Springs Hospital Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at 702-369-7571.