Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease, is an obstruction or narrowing of the large arteries, usually in the legs. These narrowed or clogged arteries cause a lack of blood flow to your body’s tissues (i.e. muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, etc.). It can be caused by atherosclerosis or inflammation which may lead to stenosis and complicated by associated embolisms, similar to what occurs in the smaller arteries of the heart and brain. It can be painful and debilitating. It typically affects 12-14% of the general population, however, it is found in 20% of those over 75.
Have you seen the commercials on television for peripheral artery disease (PAD) recommending laser, electrical stimulation, or ultrasonic sound waves to alleviate symptoms? While tempting, there is little to no scientific support for these treatments. Reliable sources, such as the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, advocate EXERCISE as the best treatment for PAD.
Research has identified several factors that increase your risk for developing PAD. You can control many, but not all, of these risk factors. The uncontrollable risk factors include:
However, be optimistic and focus on the following controllable risk factors:
PAD affects men and women equally and is often associated with coronary artery disease (AKA: heart disease) which can cause a heart attack and cerebrovascular disease which can cause a stroke. To reduce your risk of heart attacks and stroke, anti-coagulant therapy is recommended, with aspirin as the first choice.
PAD symptoms can interfere with your ability to maintain an active lifestyle. This lack of “exercise” decreases your balance, strength, endurance, and walking ability. You may succumb to a sedentary lifestyle which reduces quality of life and increases risk for disability and death! Therefore, PAD requires aggressive management!
Proper management of PAD includes reducing not only the risk factors, but also the pain that you experience with activity! The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend a supervised exercise program because:
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association endorse a walking program, 30 to 45 minutes in duration, at least 3 times per week, for at least 12 weeks. Other components of the ideal walking program need to be identified by a medical professional:
In more severe cases of PAD, revascularization with surgical techniques should be considered if the above mentioned conservative measures have failed. Please consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program!
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: Janet Caputo, PT, DPT, OCS is clinical director of physical therapy at Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants, LLC in downtown Scranton where she practices orthopedic and neurological physical therapy.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in Scranton, PA. He is an associate clinical professor of medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.