Simple answer: In many cases, yes.
Not so simple answer: There are many treatment options for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and those treatments are improving every day. More than ever, medication and behavior modification can help you resolve your persistent leg pain before resorting to surgical intervention. While not every single patient will find their ideal outcome, with a dedication to your own health and a surgical team ready to match that commitment, Lam Vascular & Associates is here to help you.
What is the best way to reverse PAD?
A great question that requires a long answer. Ultimately, your best treatment will be determined by a number of factors, but the main one is the severity of your PAD. In the earliest stages, non-surgical treatments are both effective and preferred, but as the disease progresses, more and more aggressive treatment options are needed to restore blood flow and prevent limb loss.
Great news. Dr. Lam and his team have a fantastic history of saving limbs. Even in cases where a doctor has suggested amputation as the only treatment option, looking for a second opinion can often make a world of difference.
What puts me at risk for PAD?
Regardless of if you’re showing symptoms or not, if a number of these risk factors apply to you, it’s important to begin considering your likelihood of developing PAD.
The biggest risk factors include:
- 50 years old or older
- Current or past smoker
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Personal history of heart attack or stroke
- Family history of heart disease or PAD
- Chronic kidney disease
It’s especially important to be aware of when these risk factors overlap. For example, 1 in 7 people over the age of 70 have PAD, but a smoker who is over 60 is likely going to have about that same risk. If any of these risk factors sound familiar, we highly encourage you to consider seeing a doctor and to immediately begin working to modify the factors that you can change.
Let’s dig into the different severities of PAD and how treatment differs between them.
Early-Stage Peripheral Artery Disease
Early PAD is most often indicated by the development of claudication. Claudication is pain in the legs that normally shows up during physical activity, subsides during rest and is caused by lack of blood flow. If you have chronic leg pain and any of the above risk factors, it’s likely time to see a doctor. While it is unlikely to be an emergency if the pain has only recently developed, seeing a doctor is crucial to be sure that you’re not in danger of something more serious.
Some other important symptoms include:
- Tiredness, heaviness or cramping in leg muscles during minimal physical activity
- Discolored or bluish toes or feet
- Leg pain that disturbs sleep
- One leg or foot regularly feels slightly colder than the other
- Poor nail growth and decreased hair growth over time on the toes and legs
If none of these symptoms are severe, it is still possible that your PAD could be treated with medication or behavioral interventions such as quitting smoking, changing your diet and increasing physical activity. That said, if you have any symptoms, there is no excuse to not visit a doctor. Without a doctor’s insights, you may have no way of knowing how severe your PAD is until it’s too late.
Critical Limb Ischemia
Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is a severe form of PAD that is most commonly associated with diabetes. In simplest terms, critical limb ischemia is PAD that has restricted so much blood flow that it is creating an immediate threat to the limb itself.
There are a number of warning signs that are associated with CLI, but there is one major warning sign that always requires medical attention: a diabetic foot ulcer.
If you have a slow or non-healing diabetic foot ulcer, you need to seek medical treatment immediately.
Because of the weakened blood flow caused by diabetes and PAD, even if you have a seemingly small injury on your foot, your body does not have the resources to effectively treat it. This scenario is the fastest way for your treatable PAD to become a limb or life-threatening condition.
In addition to the traditional symptoms of PAD, you should also watch out for these advanced symptoms of CLI:
- Ulceration (an open sore or wound on the skin)
- Gangrene (dead, often discolored, skin tissue)
- Resting foot pain for more than two weeks
- You sleep with your foot off of the bed to relieve pain
Most cases of critical limb ischemia will require surgical intervention. While not all amputations are preventable, the team at Lam Vascular & Associates will do everything it can to avoid that outcome. Some advanced minimally invasive surgery options include angioplasty and stenting and laser atherectomy. In fact, treating Dallas patients’ critical limb ischemia with these fantastic options is exactly what our Limb Salvage Center was designed to do.
In total, the vast number of surgical options has allowed Dr. Lam to build a history of positive outcomes and a reputation as a doctor that often saves limbs and lives.
Acute Limb-Threatening Ischemia
While rare, the final stage of PAD is incredibly dangerous. Acute limb-threatening ischemia (ALTI) is characterized by a sudden change in PAD symptoms. While CLI is a reason to schedule a doctor’s appointment, Acute Limb-Threatening Ischemia is a reason to seek immediate medical attention.
Following are the six main symptoms associated with the most dangerous form of PAD:
- Sudden relief in claudication pain that is replaced with numbness
- One limb is dramatically more pale than the other
- You can’t feel a pulse in your foot
- You have a consistent burning or tingling sensation in the foot (pins and needles)
- A limb is very cold relative to the rest of the body
- You experience paralysis in the affected limb
While treatment options may be mostly similar to the other forms of PAD, those with ALTI should seek treatment as immediately as possible. If left untreated, ALTI can quickly lead to complete limb loss and a much higher risk of complications. Just like other forms of PAD, ALTI can be reversed, but only with aggressive treatment by an expert.
What do I do next?
If you suspect you have PAD, the only effective route to recovery is seeking treatment with an expert. Dr. Lam is highly praised within the medical community because of his ability to find solutions that work.
Schedule an initial appointment today if you need help better managing your PAD (or are experiencing any symptoms of PAD, especially those of CLI). Lam Vascular & Associates has convenient locations in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.