More than 6 million Americans age 40 and up have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a chronic medical problem that increases the risks of stroke, heart attack, and other serious complications. PAD doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms, and for those newly diagnosed, the disease can raise a lot of questions.
Allison Burkett, MD, FACS, and our team at Middle Georgia Vascular Surgery Center help patients in Warner Robins, Georgia, understand peripheral artery disease, providing medical care and guidance to help prevent complications and improve their overall vascular health. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with PAD, here’s what Dr. Burkett wants you to know.
Like the name implies, peripheral artery disease affects circulation in the “periphery” of your body — typically in your legs or arms. PAD happens when cholesterol deposits cling to the inside walls of the arteries, narrowing the vessels and slowing or preventing blood flow.
Reduced blood flow leads to tissue damage, which in turn can cause symptoms like:
Initially, many symptoms are worse during movement. But as the disease progresses without treatment, pain and other symptoms may even occur when you’re lying down or trying to sleep.
Peripheral artery disease is more common in people over age 50 and in women and men who have specific risk factors, including:
The good news is, many of these risk factors are modifiable, which means there are things you can do to lower your risk of PAD and its complications. That includes taking actions like quitting smoking, adopting healthier eating patterns, and losing extra weight.
In addition to lifestyle changes like the ones listed above, medical treatment for PAD also plays an important role in preventing complications and improving circulation. Dr. Burkett offers several treatment options, based on each patient’s specific needs.
Mild to moderate PAD may be managed with medication to improve blood flow. When conservative options aren’t enough, Dr. Burkett uses minimally invasive options to improve circulation in the affected arteries.
This procedure uses a tiny medical balloon to compress plaque deposits and open up blocked arteries, so a supportive stent can be inserted. The stent keeps the artery open for continued blood flow.
An atherectomy is similar to an angioplasty, but instead of compressing the plaque, Dr. Burkett carefully removes it with a special instrument.
When an artery is simply too damaged or clogged to be “saved,” Dr. Burkett replaces the damaged area with an artery graft taken from another area of your body.
Peripheral artery disease is a serious medical condition that needs prompt, ongoing medical treatment to help prevent heart attack, stroke, and other complications. The good news: Dr. Burkett tailors every treatment to help patients avoid problems and improve their circulation.