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PAD – Are you listening to your legs? – What you need to know about Peripheral Artery Disease

Written by Dr. Sandeep Sehgal. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on February 17, 2016 with No Comments

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also called peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a common circulatory condition that restricts blood flow to your limbs. While is can be treated, it can be confused or mistaken for other conditions and often goes undiagnosed, which can lead to serious complications. Interventional Cardiologist Sandeep Sehgal, M.D., discusses the 5 W’S of PAD – the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE AND WHY –  to help you better understand this condition that can put you at risk for heart attack, stroke and other dangerous conditions.

What is PAD?

“Peripheral artery disease is the narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head, but it is most commonly found in the arteries in the legs,” explained Dr. Sehgal. “Many people dismiss the most common symptoms of PAD – cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles that occurs when walking or climbing stairs – as normal signs of aging. Sometimes patients think it’s arthritis, stiff muscles or neuropathy,” Dr. Sehgal shared. “But PAD is much more serious and needs medical attention.”

Why does PAD Matter?

PAD occurs when fatty deposits build up in the arteries that supply fresh oxygen and blood to the arms, legs and feet. “It is a very dangerous condition, because the blockages can restrict circulation to the limbs, organs and brain, and it may be the first warning sign of coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis.” Fatty deposits in the arteries impact the entire circulatory system and increase the risk for vascular inflammation and blood clots that can block the blood supply and cause tissue to die and result in infections such as gangrene, or the deal of body tissue due to the lack of blood flow, he added.

Who is at Risk for PAD?

Dr. Sehgal explained that there are certain risk factors such as aging, personal or family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stroke that can’t be controlled. He also said that people with these conditions should be vigilant in watching for signs of PAD. “While people can’t control all of their risk factors,” said Dr. Sehgal, “there are certain factors that can be managed.” Dr. Sehgal listed the following controllable risk factors.

• Smoking

• Obesity

• Diabetes

• Inactivity

• High Cholesterol

• High Blood Pressure

When to Seek Treatment for PAD

“Because people often dismiss PAD as something else, they tend to delay seeking treatment,” noted Dr. Sehgal. He urged people that have muscle pain or cramping in the legs or arms that is triggered by activities such as walking or climbing stairs to see their physician. “This is especially important if your pain goes away after a few minutes of rest,” he said “We have several, non-invasive methods for diagnosing PAD that you can discuss with your physician.” Dr. Sehgal explained the most common are ankle-brachial index screening, Doppler and ultrasound imaging, computed tomographic (CT) angiography and magnetic resonance angiography.

Where to Get Treatment for PAD

Treatment for peripheral artery disease has three major goals. The first is to improve quality of life and manage symptoms, such as leg pain, so that you can resume physical activities. The second is to stop the progression of PAD to prevent critical limb ischemia, gangrene and amputation. The third goal is use PAD as a marker to help detect and treat other vascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

“Initially, your treatment for PAD will focus on healthy lifestyle changes that may include smoking cessation and the management of diabetes, obesity and hypertension. This may include an exercise regime such as walking to improve collateral circulation. You may also need to take medicines to ease the pain or to help you manage other health problems,” Dr. Sehgal said. “However, if lifestyle changes don’t help or if your PAD is severe, you may need an angioplasty or bypass surgery of the leg arteries.

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About Dr. Sandeep Sehgal

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Dr. Sehgal is a member of the medical staff at Porter Regional Hospital and the Chairman of the Department of Cardiology. He is board certified in General Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology, Nuclear Cardiology and Endovascular Interventions. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Sehgal at Northwest Indiana Cardiovascular Physicians, call 219-983-6300.

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