Peripheral artery disease (PAD) does not have to ruin your life. Just ask Jan, who came dangerously close to having at least one and possibly both of her legs amputated in late 2017. Three different doctors told her the same story: There was nothing they could do to help Jan with her severe leg pain, other than amputation! “I just felt that if they cut off my legs, I would die,” said Jan. She finally met Dr. Lam at Lam Vascular & Associates in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Lam diagnosed and treated Jan’s peripheral artery disease, placing stents first in the right leg, and soon after, the left, in order to open up the arteries and restore blood flow.
Within a week of each procedure, Jan’s legs were much improved, the severe pain having subsided. She was able to return to regular activities such as shopping with friends and walking their new beautiful property with her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Dr. Lam and his staff are so great and lovely,” said Jan. “They took such good care of me.”
Facts about PAD
It is estimated that peripheral artery disease affects about 8 to 12 million Americans age 50 and up, with higher risk and prevalence increasing with age (National Institutes of Health). Also, data from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that 2/3 of the people with PAD have no symptoms, while 1/4 have severe PAD. Many people, like Jan, do not get properly diagnosed even with severe pain.
Peripheral artery disease develops when arteries narrow and become clogged with plaque—fatty deposits and cholesterol—that limits blood flow to your legs. PAD acts just like coronary artery disease (CAD) and is caused by atherosclerosis, often called “hardening of the arteries” that leads to higher risk of heart attack, stroke, leg amputation and even death.
Your risks of developing PAD increase if you:
- Are over age 50. Again many patients show no symptoms or they assume their pain, like cramping or heaviness in the leg, is related to the normal aging process
- Have Type 2 diabetes, a disease that wreaks havoc on your circulatory system over time
- Smoke or used to smoke, one of the worst habits in terms of overall health
- Have high blood pressure, which elevates the risk of developing plaque in your arteries
- Have high bad cholesterol or low good cholesterol
- Are overweight, lacking exercise and living a sedentary life
- Have a family history of vascular disease or personal history of heart disease
- Are African American—you are twice as likely to suffer from PAD as people of other races (American Heart Association)
Typical symptoms of PAD include:
- Claudication, which is pain in the leg muscles (buttocks, hips, thighs or calves) in the form of cramping, heaviness, weakness that occurs when walking, climbing stairs or exercising. When claudication is intermittent, pain and discomfort usually go away when you rest.
- Pain that persists in legs and feet when you sleep
- Foot or toe wounds that heal slowly or not at all
- Discoloration in the skin of the feet (pale or bluish)
- Lower temperature or weak pulse in lower leg or foot
Diagnosing and Treating PAD
As you can see in the case of Jan, many physicians do not have PAD on their radar and totally miss a diagnosis. Except for Dr. Lam. So the lesson here is get a second opinion. In Jan’s case, it was her fourth opinion. Having performed over 10,000 complex peripheral interventions, Dr. Lam is credited with preventing thousands of leg amputations.
The tests for PAD diagnosis are mostly non-invasive, so what do you have to lose? It all starts with a physical exam from Dr. Lam, who will talk with you about your symptoms, check pulses in your legs and feet to assess blood flow, observe color and appearance of your legs and feet, and look for signs of poor wound healing.
When checking for PAD, Dr. Lam may perform a painless, non-invasive test called ankle brachial pressure index (ABI). ABI compares the blood pressure readings in your arms with the blood pressure numbers in your legs. While an ABI can help identify if you have PAD, it cannot “read” which arteries are narrowed or clogged. Dr. Lam may then suggest a Doppler ultrasound test to evaluate blood flow in your arteries among other tests.
The overall goal for treating PAD at Lam Vascular & Associates is to alleviate pain. In severe cases of PAD, Dr. Lam may recommend procedures such as peripheral bypass surgery, angioplasty or stenting (as in the case of Jan) to restore blood circulation in your legs and give you back your ability to walk.
For your comfort and convenience, Lam Vascular & Associates has locations in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas. Schedule your appointment online or call today to get a leg up on your vascular health…and take your life back.