Imagine yourself walking up the stairs, with the kids or grandkids at the park, down the driveway to get the mail or at the mall. And you start to experience pain or cramping in your leg — or both legs.
It may be barely noticeable, but whether you are over 50 with a history of smoking or diabetes, or over age 70 without this kind of health history, there is a serious disease that could be the cause: peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD.
“PAD involves the narrowing of peripheral arteries in the arms, legs, stomach, and head.” said Patricia K. Bozeman, APRN, from the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group and the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute. “PAD is similar to coronary artery disease in that both conditions are caused by atherosclerosis that narrows and blocks arteries.”
The location of the pain also tells you the general location of the artery that’s narrowed or hardened. Unfortunately, many people dismiss the pain as insignificant or attribute it to aging.
Dismissing it, however, can be deadly.
“Individuals with PAD have a higher risk for coronary artery disease and stroke,” Bozeman said. “If left untreated, PAD may result in complications such as gangrene and subsequent amputation. Although many individuals live with significant degrees of PAD, the condition can suddenly become life-threatening and necessitate emergency intervention.”
Pain in the leg, hip, thigh or calf muscles (called claudication) is one of many possible signs of peripheral artery disease. Others include:
- Numbness or weakness in the leg.
- Weak (or no) pulse in the legs or feet.
- Sores on legs, toes or feet that don’t heal as usual.
- Cramping with exercise.
- Discoloration in legs.
- Temperature in one leg lower than the other.
- Hair loss (or slower growth) on legs and feet.
- Poor toenail growth.
- Coldness in lower leg or foot.
The good news is that PAD can be managed effectively through proper diagnosis and treatment. And there’s a simple, five-minute screening that helps diagnosis it.
“This screening compares the blood pressure in the leg to the blood pressure in the arm,” said Bozeman, who will be conducting such screenings with her colleague, Dr. Akhilesh Jain, at Backus Hospital later this month.
If you are concerned you or someone you know has peripheral artery disease, sign up for the FREE PAD screening with Akhilesh Jain, MD and Patricia A. Bozeman, APRN on Sat., Oct. 20, between 9 a.m. and noon at Backus Hospital. Registration is required. For more information or to register, please call 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373).