Health Watch: Leg Pain Could Signal Peripheral Artery Disease

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Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) develops in the legs when arteries are clogged due to cholesterol build up. This causes decreased blood flow to the legs, which can result in leg pain, and eventually gangrene and amputation.

PAD is a common condition that causes pain in the legs when walking.  It often goes undiagnosed.  However, if left untreated, it can eventually cause painful immobility.   Affecting some 204 million people worldwide and 8.5 million Americans, PAD is strongly associated with coronary artery disease, diabetes, age and smoking.

Dr. Matthew Smeds, SLUCare vascular surgeon says, “You pretty much won’t find a person who has PAD unless they have some history of smoking.”  He offers his patients prevention treatments first, before considering surgery.  Prevention includes adopting good cardiovascular health measures:  managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting sufficient exercise, eating better, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

“What that helps the patient do is condition their leg muscles so they are learning to use the muscles with less oxygen.  We can also give some medicines to kind of optimize their other cardiovascular risk factors, things like cholesterol medicines, aspirin.”

Dr. Smeds says some patients needing surgery might see dramatic improvement.

Angiography, angioplasty and stenting are leg-saving treatment options for PAD. These minimally invasive image-guided procedures can be performed by a vascular interventional radiologist, a specialist with expertise in minimally invasive techniques.  SLUCare has various specialists who can help assess the best treatment options.

There is no cure for PAD, however, a patient can help to reduce the disease progression.  To learn more about SLUCare options for PAD, click here.


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