Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Vascular disease (PVD) or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) are characterized by decreased circulation to the extremities. There are many systemic conditions that can cause or facilitate blockages in the arteries serving blood to the legs, feet, and toes. Symptoms of PAD can include cramping, night cramps, night pain, pain, claudication (cramping of calves when walking), ulcerations, dry gangrene, pain, and auto amputation. Typically we will find a combination of these symptoms.
Peripheral Artery Disease Evaluation
Examination by a physician is critical in assessing a persons circulation. Visual inspection of the feet, legs, and toes lends a tremendous amount of information. Does an individual have (blue, purple, or red) discoloration, hair grown, nail disease, skin abnormalities, wounds, or other visible changes. Individual deficits are not necessarily indicative of deficiencies, these are just pieces to a complete picture.
Non-invasive vascular studies are the simplest and least invasive examinations that can be done to evaluate the circulation to extremities. There are many different studies that can be done to assess the vascular supply including doppler, assessing pulses, ankle/brachial index (ABI), plethysmography, capillary fill time, and many others. Some of these test are more reliable than others and some can be miss leading- they must all be looked at and put together like a puzzle. Often times these tests are really just used to see if invasive studies are necessary. Invasive vascular studies or angiograms are used to diagnose blockages in the vessels serving the legs. Identifying blockages is the first step in identifying the real problems- blockages.
Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment
The easiest way to improve circulation is EXERCISE!!! Yes, it can be that simple for some. Stay active. Check with your family doctor, tell them, you want to exercise, ask for input and what is safe exercise for you. Get up and move, watch your diet manage systemic problems. If exercise is not an option for you, you may require the assistance of a vascular surgeon. They can manually open the artery with stints, angioplasty, or bypass the blockage in many cases. It is important to note that all surgeries do come with inherent risks including infection, failure, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), chronic pain, and death. No treatment comes with a guarantee.