What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
“One of the most common symptoms of PAD is pain in the legs while walking which gets worse if not detected and treated at an early stage”
When blood circulation in the arteries of the heart gets blocked, it is called heart attack. This condition is well known and well understood by both, general physicians and common people. Similarly, when blood circulation to the leg gets blocked, it is called leg attack.
The arteries carry purified blood to all parts of the body. So, mostly blockage and sometimes the ‘blowing up’ or ‘dilatation’ of any artery in the body, except in the heart and in the brain, is called peripheral arteria’ disease (PAD) and this disease is synonymous with a ‘leg attack.’
Symptoms And Extent Of PAD
A majority of the patients present this disease at a very advanced stage and about 70 per cent can have diseases elsewhere in the body too, like the heart, brain or kidney. One of the most common symptoms of PAD is pain in the legs while walking, which gets worse if not detected and treated at an early stage.
Peripheral arterial disease is a common condition, but it has not received much attention in the past. However, now with general awareness among people about their health, more and more cases are getting diagnosed in the early stage. Nevertheless, more awareness has to be spread about PAD amongst general practitioners, so that they can diagnose it early.
It is estimated that about 10 million patients are at risk of this disease and in India, a whopping number of 40000 legs are amputated each year. But, it this condition is detected in its early stage, most legs can be saved.
Smokers Are At Greater Risk
Smokers, diabetics, elderlies and people under stress are more prone to these diseases. However, some habits like smoking further worsens this condition. Those who smoke are at greater risk of developing PAD compared to nonsmokers, because smoking results in absorption of nicotine and with the consequent release of adrenaline and noradrenaline (neurotransmitters) it causes damage to the muscular wall of vessels. This binds to the receptors of the muscular wall and causes a condition called vasoconstriction that leads to the narrowing of blood vessels, that occurs due to the contraction of the muscular wall.
The risk of PAD increases as people age and its prevalence in the lower limbs are more amongst the elderly and people above fifty years of age. Also, those afflicted with PAD are significantly more at risk for heart disease and strokes as well.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Initial screening is done by feeling the pulses of the limbs with colour doppler. And angiography (study of blood vessels) is done for the plan of treatment. A block in the artery can be treated with a bypass surgery. A vein or prosthetic graft Is used for the bypass surgery. Nowadays, with the latest advances in medical science, a block in the arteries can be opened with a balloon, as it is done for the arteries of the heart.
There are drug-eluting balloons available which help in keeping the arteries open. A metallic stent is also used to keep the block in the arteries open. Peripheral angiography, angioplasty and stenting are minimal invasive techniques that can be done under local anesthesia and as a day procedure.
Lifestyle Modifications Is Key
Whether it is the heart, brain or legs, lifestyle modifications are necessary to ward oft any disease and a lot of things have to be taken care oft like having a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding all the bad habits like eating too much of junk food, smoking and drinking alcohol. Healthy lifestyle practices not only help you to keep diseases at bay, but it is also necessary for overall well-being of your body and mind. It also aids in controlling diabetes, blood pressure, heart diseases and prevents PAD as well. You should avoid high fat foods and if diabetic, follow the dietary advice of your doctor and also control salt in your diet. However, the diet has to be tailored according to individual needs.
Managing Peripheral Arterial Disease
There are also some specific drugs that help improve walking distance in patients but PAD patients may have to use aspirin and anti-cholesterol drugs etc, to prevent complications in the future. However once PAD has advanced with a non-healing sore, patients may have to undergo vascular bypass and minimally invasive endovascular procedures that are available nowadays, like angioplasty and stenting, similar for the treatment of the heart. Although the blocks in PAD are longer, they are no more difficult to treat with excellent results, if performed by trained vascular surgeons.