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Southwest San Antonio Peripheral Artery Disease Care

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one of the most common vascular-related health conditions in the United States. It is estimated that five in every 100 adults over the age of 50 has peripheral artery disease. According to the CDC, 12 to 20 percent of all individuals over the age of 60 have PAD, which indicates a significant increase in prevalence between ages 50 and 60. Risk continues to increase with age.

What is PAD?

PAD is a vascular condition that is caused by atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the arteries of the legs (and sometimes arms). When arteries become blocked, not enough oxygen reaches the limbs, resulting in pain while walking, non-healing ulcers and sores, numbness, burning, aching, and other painful and problematic symptoms.

PAD is frequently under-diagnosed because its symptoms are often accepted as a “natural part of aging” by many patients. Also, symptoms can be masked by those caused by other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.

Peripheral Artery Disease Risk Factors

If you can be categorized in one of the following groups, then you may be at an increased risk for peripheral artery disease:

  • Over the age of 70.
  • Over the age of 50 with type 2 diabetes and/or a history of smoking.
  • Under the age of 50, diabetic and/or smoker, and have one or more of the following coexistent conditions:
    • BMI ≥ 30
    • High LDL or low HDL cholesterol
    • Lack of regular exercise
    • Family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke
    • Above average homocysteine levels in blood
    • High blood pressure

Your physician or cardiologist at Southwest General Hospital can help you mange these risk factors to reduce your chances of developing peripheral artery disease.

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

An important note on PAD symptoms: as many as 40 percent of all patients with PAD experience no noticeable symptoms. For this reason alone, patients should not rely on warning signs and symptoms to know whether or not they have PAD.If you are at risk for PAD, talk to your physician about getting a vascular ultrasound or some other screening for the disease. Common symptoms of peripheral arterial disease include:

  • Intermittent claudication (pain in the legs during exercise that goes away when at rest)
  • Cool, shiny, red, discolored skin on one foot or leg
  • Numbness or weakness in the leg
  • Burning or aching sensation in toes or feet – especially while sleeping. Patient may unconsciously dangle foot or leg over the bed while sleeping in order to get relief.
  • Non-healing ulcers or sores on the toes or feet.
  • Loss of hair, slow hair growth on the toes and feet.
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

Peripheral artery disease or other vascular and neurogenic health issues could cause these symptoms. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let your physician know immediately.

Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease

If your symptoms suggest the possible presence of peripheral artery disease, your primary care provider may perform an ankle brachial index (ABI) test. This painless, noninvasive procedure is a type of pulse volume recording test. During the ABI test, blood pressure cuffs are placed on the legs and arms. A difference in blood pressure readings between the ankles and arms may indicate the presence of peripheral artery disease.

Your physician may also refer you to a specialist for a vascular ultrasound, which is a more advanced diagnostic test. During a vascular ultrasound test, sound waves are bounced off the arteries in the legs. These sound waves are converted into images, which may reveal the location and site of an arterial blockage. Arteriography and lab blood testing may also be performed in diagnosing PAD.

Preventing & Managing Peripheral Artery Disease

If your cardiologist tells you that you have PAD, there are several things you can do to manage your condition and prevent symptoms from worsening. Your cardiologist at Southwest General Hospital can go over these and other strategies specific to your PAD at your next appointment:

  • Enroll in a smoking cessation program. Smokers are at four times the risk for having PAD than non-smokers. By kicking the habit, you may see tremendous improvements in your vascular (and overall) health.
  • Lower your LDL cholesterol. For most patients, a good goal is an LDL level of 100 mg/dL or lower.
  • Reduce high blood pressure. A standard target level is 140/80 mmHg or lower.
  • Manage blood sugar. Diabetics should aim for hemoglobin A1C test results of 7.0 percent or lower. Non-diabetics should also be mindful of their blood sugar.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask your cardiologist about starting a peripheral artery disease walking program to reduce intermittent claudication and improve your vascular health.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Increase fiber intake while reducing sodium, fat, and cholesterol.

Many patients may be able to manage their disease without the use of medication (or with minimal drug therapy) when fully implementing these prevention/management techniques. Your cardiologist at Southwest General Hospital can help by giving you the tools for living a healthy life with PAD.

Treating Peripheral Artery Disease in San Antonio

At Southwest General Hospital, your cardiologist may treat your peripheral artery disease through medication and/or an interventional procedure (if the blockage is severe enough). Medications for PAD include those that:

  • Prevent blood clots
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Ease symptoms of intermittent claudication (leg pain while walking)

Cardiologists and vascular surgeons at Southwest General Hospital also offer a number of advanced treatment options for arterial blockages in the legs. These include:

  • Angioplasty and Stenting. This is a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure that is performed from within the artery – no incision necessary. During the procedure, an interventionist inserts a catheter into the femoral artery in the groin. A small balloon is passed through the catheter until it arrives at the blockage. The balloon is inflated at the blockage site, compressing plaque against the arterial wall. A stent may be placed to hold the artery open, allowing for healthy blood flow.
  • Laser Atherectomy. This procedure is also minimally invasive and catheter-based. In this procedure, a special laser device is introduced via catheter to the blockage site. The laser is then used to ablate (destroy) plaque buildup in the artery. The tiny plaque fragments are safely carried away through the bloodstream, thereby restoring healthy blood flow to the artery.
  • Surgical Bypass Grafting. If a catheter-based procedure is not possible, then your cardiologist may refer you to a vascular surgeon for peripheral artery bypass surgery. In this procedure, a healthy blood vessel is used to reroute blood around the blockage in the artery.

Other PAD treatments may be available. At Southwest General Hospital, your cardiologist will work with you directly to find a disease management or treatment option that’s right for you. 

San Antonio Heart Care in Your Neighborhood

For more information about peripheral artery disease and heart care in San Antonio, call Southwest General Hospital at 1-877-215-WELL.

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San Antonio, TX 78224
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