Peripheral artery disease: Start with your socks

Saturday, September 1, 2018

By: Jeff Ash

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You really ought to take your socks off. It’s perhaps the first place to look for signs of peripheral artery disease.


September is Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month.


What, you ask, is peripheral artery disease? Also known as PAD, it develops when arteries carrying blood to the legs, stomach, arms and head – but mostly the legs – become narrowed because of plaque building on the artery walls. “Peripheral” refers to the outer regions of the body.


Why, you ask, should we take off our socks and look for peripheral artery disease? It often goes undiagnosed, with its symptoms mistaken for another health condition. People who have PAD have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke.


Some of the risk factors for PAD include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, smoking, diabetes and a family history of peripheral artery disease. The older you are, the higher your risk of getting peripheral artery disease.


When you take your socks off, here’s what to look for.

  • Leg or foot wounds that are slow to heal
  • Unexplained leg pain or cramping, especially while walking or exercising
  • Skin problems or discoloration on the legs and feet
  • Poor toenail growth or poor hair growth on the legs

All that said, there’s plenty of good news.


The Vascular Specialists at Aurora BayCare have teamed up to offer a multidisciplinary approach to treating PAD and other vascular conditions.


“We provide individualized, state-of-the-art care for each patient,” says Dr. James Offord, a vascular surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgeons in Green Bay. “Our goal is to prevent the serious consequences of vascular disease, so people can enjoy life, with freedom from vascular disease.”  He is part of a team that includes vascular surgeons, interventional cardiologists, interventional radiologists and neurointervention specialists.


Peripheral artery disease is easily diagnosed. Tests begin with checking for a weak pulse in the leg and comparing blood pressure in the arms and feet. If necessary, imaging tests may be done. They can include ultrasound, CT or MRA scans, or angiography.


A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle are the best ways to slow the progression of peripheral artery disease. In some cases, PAD is managed with lifestyle changes and medication that control high blood pressure and lower cholesterol.


Learn more about Peripheral artery disease. 

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