Peripheral Arterial Disease - Medical Malpractice LawyerLEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
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Peripheral Arterial Disease - Medical Malpractice
Peripheral arterial disease is also called "peripheral artery disease" or "PAD" and is a condition involving the narrowing of the peripheral arteries, especially the arteries that lead to the legs. The arteries can be in the pelvis, upper leg or lower leg with symptoms depending on which arteries are most involved. PAD is a lot like coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease and, in fact, a person who has peripheral arterial disease has a higher chance of having either of the two conditions, or both. It results from arterial plaques or hardening of the arteries from cholesterol and calcium deposits along the length of the artery. This restricts blood flow to the affected areas supplied by the arteries and the body areas suffer from a lack of proper oxygenation.
About 8 million people suffer from peripheral arterial disease and the risk of the disease increases with age. It is mostly a disease of people over the age of 65 and is higher in people with diabetes and other forms of heart disease. High cholesterol and low exercise levels affect the amount of peripheral vascular disease a person gets. It is just as prevalent in men as in women.
Common symptoms associated with peripheral vascular disease include cramping in the leg with activity, a condition called "claudication", pain or tenderness in the leg and a fatigued feeling in the leg or hip musculature while climbing stairs or walking long distances. The symptoms worsen the more activity you do and go away with rest. Many people think PAD is just a "charley horse" or some other muscular pain and misdiagnose a serious condition. If you have peripheral arterial disease, you have a four to five time's greater risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Untreated peripheral arterial disease can lead to gangrene of the leg or foot and amputation of one or more of the lower extremities.
Risks for peripheral arterial disease include smoking history or being an active smoker, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you have one or more of these conditions, you need to consider being screened for peripheral arterial disease. Fortunately, PAD is easily diagnosed in a way that is relatively painless and non-invasive so there is no excuse not to be screened if you have risk factors.
The disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a condition where the plaque builds up on the wall of an artery. In PAD, the arteries affected are the iliac arteries, the femoral arteries or the smaller arteries distal to the femoral artery. Atherosclerosis in the iliac arteries is more dangerous than atherosclerosis that affects the more distal arteries. The dangerous part of atherosclerosis is when the plaque inflames and ruptures itself, blocking the circulation of the artery suddenly, leading to severe pain and gangrene. Blood clots can form within the artery fairly quickly and the situation can become one of an emergency in order to save the leg.
There are two types of peripheral vascular disease. The first is known as functional arterial vascular disease and results from spasm of the arteries. The result is pain but the spasm does not last forever and the pain is transient. There generally isn't any gangrene associated with functional disease. The second type is organic peripheral vascular disease, which is the kind where there are plaques in the arteries that permanently leave narrowing of the arteries. This causes more long-lasting problem and gangrene of the lower extremities. The gangrene usually starts with the toes and works up the leg to the level of the obstruction.
Peripheral arterial disease is diagnosed by doing a Doppler ultrasound to measure the blood flow through the arteries. It can be done along the entire leg. Pulses and the blood pressure in the leg can be checked and compared to the upper extremities. If the blood pressure in the lower extremities is too low, it may mean the blood flow is compromised. Angiography can be done to really see with dye studies how much and where the arterial blood flow is problematic. An MRI can also diagnose the disease.
The treatment of peripheral arterial disease is to stop smoking, control blood pressure and manage diabetes. You need to be physically active and eat a low cholesterol, low fat diet. There are medications that can open up the arteries, including pentoxifylline, and medications that block platelet activity. Finally, cholesterol-lowering drugs are important to use in order to keep the blockage from occurring in the first place.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here