SSM Health Medical Minute – Leg pain could signal peripheral artery disease

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – 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.

“You pretty much won’t find a person who has PAD unless they have some history of smoking,” said Dr. Matthew Smeds, SLUCare vascular surgeon at SSM Health St. Clare and SLU Hospital.

Smeds offers 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,” Smeds said. “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.

There is no cure for PAD, however, a patient can help to reduce the disease progression.

To learn more about your PAD signs and symptoms, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7pm and FOX 2 News at 9pm

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