Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs.
According to Dr. Ghulam Awan, director of interventional cardiology & endovascular interventions at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, when you develop peripheral artery disease, your legs don't receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand.
Many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms. According to Dr. Awan, the most common symptoms of PAD can include painful cramping in your hip, thigh, or calf muscles after activity, such as walking or climbing stairs, termed as intermittent claudication.
Intermittent claudication symptoms can include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that's triggered by activity, but usually disappears after a few minutes of rest.
Other symptoms include leg numbness or weakness; coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side; sores on your legs that won't heal; a change in the color of your legs; hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs; slower growth of your toenails; shiny skin on your legs; no pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet; and erectile dysfunction in men.
People who have PAD have almost a 50 percent chance of also having coronary artery disease or cerebral artery disease, placing them at higher risk for a stroke or heart attack.
Dr. Awan says that although PAD is very common, male patients, diabetics, or those who smoke are at a higher risk. PAD is easy to diagnose by reviewing symptoms and performing a simple exam in the office.
A common test used to diagnose PAD is an ankle-brachial index (ABI) of the lower extremities. It compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.
In some cases a CT scan or peripheral angiography may be performed.
“If a patient needs peripheral artery disease intervention, we usually treat those arteries with balloon angioplasty and stents,” Dr. Awan said. “Once we perform intervention, most patients normally feel a 100 percent improvement in their quality of life, ability to walk distances, and relief of symptoms.”
Dr. Awan encourages all patients to quit smoking and enroll in an exercise program to control the long term risk factors.
Dr. Awan said it is important to see your primary health care provider any time you notice symptoms. “If you have leg pain, numbness, or other symptoms, don’t dismiss them as a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Awan. “Call your doctor and make an appointment.”
Even if you don’t have symptoms of PAD, you may need to be screened if you are:
• Over the age of 70
• Over the age of 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
“Generally, PAD is under-diagnosed because people think their symptoms are part of the normal process of getting older,” said Dr. Awan. “If proper medical history is taken, the disease can be easily diagnosed.”
Dr. Awan has a special interest in complex artery disease and PAD. He has performed thousands of CAD/PAD interventions with modern cutting edge technology. He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, and interventional cardiology and has been performing complicated interventions for the last eight years.
To schedule an appointment, call (251) 445-8242.