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Fighting For Your Legs

By  Dr. Gary M. Ansel

(Page 1 of 3)

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), a condition synonymous with the clogging of arteries in the body’s lower extremities, is often referred to as a “silent killer” that can bring with it potentially grave results that include gangrene, amputation, or death.

Data shows that PAD currently affects approximately eight million men and women over the age of 40 in the United States. What’s more, the risk of developing PAD increases dramatically as people grow older, with as many as one in 20 Americans over the age of 50 developing the disease.

Although PAD is prevalent among the senior population, current statistics shows public awareness about the disease is low. In fact, only 25 percent of those afflicted receive treatment, in large part due to frequent misdiagnosis of commonly mistaken symptoms. In many instances, especially among the senior community, PAD is mistaken for arthritis or aging pains, allowing the disease to remain undiagnosed, untreated, and left to intensify.

PAD develops when arteries in the legs become clogged with plaque comprised of fatty deposits, calcium, and cholesterol, and blood flow to the legs becomes limited or blocked. In severe cases, the arterial blockages can cause circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the brain and heart, which then elevate the risk for stroke and heart attack.

PAD is broken down into two stages that worsen as blood flow to the legs decreases: claudication and critical limb ischemia (CLI). Claudication, the first stage, begins with a feeling of fatigue or heaviness in the lower extremities or buttocks and progresses to significant discomfort during activity. Patients with buttock claudication will frequently stop walking until the pain goes away, a condition know as “window shopper’s disease.” The second stage, CLI, starts off with pain while resting or sitting and, if left untreated, may lead to gangrene. Within the CLI population alone, at least 200,000 amputations are performed each year.

In addition to the correlation between PAD and the aging population, diabetics are also especially susceptible to PAD because they have difficulty properly processing the sugar they ingest. Also, smoking and heritage, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans, are heightened risks for developing severe PAD that results in amputation.


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