Just 20 percent of the 10 million Americans affected by peripheral vascular disease (PVD) are diagnosed, largely because the condition is often overlooked as something you have to live with or a sign of aging.
The most common sign of PVD is leg pain while walking or exercising that stops when the activity stops. Called claudication, this pain is not something that many people recognize as a marker of potentially more extensive arterial disease.
In reality, PVD is a serious condition that slowly restricts blood flow to the legs and other areas of the body when the arteries become clogged. Serious complications can result wherever PVD occurs:
The inability of blood to reach leg muscles produces pain which may eventually hobble sufferers or result in amputation due to diminished blood flow
Blocked arteries to the kidneys can cause uncontrolled high blood pressure
Narrow carotid arteries to the brain raise the risk of stroke
A clogged artery that supplies blood to the arm and back of the brain can result in dizziness, blurred vision, and difficulty walking
Most people associate atherosclerosis with clogged arteries to the heart, but the disease can be much more diffuse and cause a variety of problems. Fortunately, Main Line Health interventional radiologists can offer minimally invasive treatments in most cases to relieve the blockages.
Combating PVD: Lifestyle Changes and Minimally Invasive Treatments
The first line of defense against PVD attacks the underlying atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes—diet, exercise, and smoking cessation—along with medication, if necessary, can lower cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure, and control diabetes, all factors in the progression of PVD.
Major surgery is sometimes required to remove blockages from arteries or to bypass the clogged area. These procedures are performed by vascular surgeons. In many cases, however, interventional radiologists can open blocked or narrowed blood vessels without major surgery using the latest non-surgical, outpatient procedures.
Angioplasty: In this technique, the physician threads a balloon-tipped catheter into the blocked artery and inflates the balloon to open the clogged vessel and allow the blood to flow where it is needed.
Stenting: The insertion of a stent in the affected artery, usually occurs with angioplasty to keep the blood vessel propped open and to prevent it from re-narrowing.
If you are experiencing leg pain, a simple test called the ankle brachial index (ABI) can detect whether you have PVD. Your physician measures the blood pressure in your arm and in your ankle and compares the ratio, which should be about the same or slightly higher in the ankle. If necessary, other noninvasive tests - an ultrasound of the legs, a CT scan, or MRI angiography—may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Taken together, these minimally invasive procedures for PVD provide patients with effective treatments that can be performed with local anesthesia under imaging guidance, are faster than surgery, and avoid surgical complications.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.