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Peripheral Artery Disease—One of the Deadliest Diseases You Never Hear Of

Have you noticed your legs cramping or your muscles hurting when walking or climbing stairs but those feelings disappear once you rest for a few moments?   Or, maybe you notice that one leg or foot may be cold or feels numb.

Have you noticed redness or changes to the color of the skin on your legs or sores on your feet or legs that won’t heal.  The name for a condition that can cause this is peripheral artery disease (PAD), or sometimes known as poor leg circulation.  

Many times, these symptoms are passed off as just getting older.   However, this is NOT a normal part of aging.  This condition can lead to amputations, heart attacks or a stroke.

Certain factors raise your risk of this condition.  Culprits are smoking, diabetes, obesity, being African American, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being over 50 and those with a family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease or a stroke are more likely to experience this. 

There is risk in not sharing symptoms of PAD with your health care provider.  If you have or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to make your doctor aware even if you think the symptoms don’t mean anything.   Sometimes, things you don’t think matter are the very things that matter the most!  Advise the practitioner about when the symptoms started, if they occur all the time or only with certain activities?  Also, let the practitioner know what makes them better!  Medications can cause some of these symptoms, especially cramping.  Take a list of all your medicines including over the counter and herbal treatments to your appointment.

Treatment focuses on controlling underlying conditions, such as hypertension or high cholesterol.  Good skin care, diet and walking are important treatment options. Sometimes, a medication or procedure may be needed to correct PAD.

Peripheral artery disease cannot be cured but it can be managed so other complications are less likely to occur. 

Editor’s Note:  This article was provided by Jude Lauffer, RN-BC, Disease Management Specialist, Gateway HealthSM.    For more information, call 1-877-GATEWAY or visit www.gatewayhealthplan.com . 

[1] http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/vascular/pad_warning_signs.aspx

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