Peripheral Vascular Disease

Do you experience leg pain when you climb a flight of stairs? If so, you may be at risk of peripheral vascular disease. Make an appointment with an experienced vascular doctor at the Vascular Center of Saint Francis Healthcare. They can help you safeguard against diseases that affect the arteries, veins and capillaries, collectively called vascular diseases.

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Many people know the importance of the blood vessels near the heart and brain but often forget the veins and arteries in their extremities. People who smoke or have conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity are more prone to developing vascular diseases.

Peripheral vascular disease (also called PVD) occurs when arteries or veins get narrower and become blocked or spasm, leading to restricted blood flow to the arms, legs or other body parts. If left untreated, peripheral vascular disease can result in heart attack, brain aneurysm or loss of limb.

What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral artery disease is the most common form of peripheral vascular disease. It occurs when a blockage in the peripheral arteries prevents blood from flowing to other body parts. The term peripheral artery disease is often used interchangeably with peripheral vascular disease.

The most common lower extremity peripheral artery disease occurs in the legs and feet. The blockage is caused by atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaque builds up in the arteries that block blood flow throughout the body, including in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis and kidneys.

Peripheral artery disease affects approximately 8 million Americans ages 40 and older. Despite the many people at risk, one in five people with peripheral artery disease does not report any symptoms. It doesn't help that the symptoms don't always raise a red flag. Although symptoms can vary, the following are the most common PAD symptoms to watch out for:

  • Pain, aching, heaviness or cramping in the legs when walking or climbing stairs that goes away after rest (also called intermittent claudication)
  • Toenails and leg hair stop growing
  • One foot feels colder than the other
  • A foot or leg turns pale, discolored or blue
  • Leg weakness or numbness
  • Feeling of pins and needles in the leg or foot
  • Pain in the leg and foot when at rest (also called critical limb ischemia)
  • Sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that may appear to have healed slowly or may not heal at all

What Is a Vascular Specialist?

Vascular specialists (also called vascular surgeons) collaborate with other medical professionals to help diagnose and develop treatment plans for people with vascular health conditions. People with the following risk factors may benefit from consulting a vascular specialist:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypertension
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Vasculitis
  • Lymphedema

What Does a Vascular Specialist Do?

Although our vascular surgeons perform a range of surgical options, including minimally invasive and open procedures, they can treat many patients who do not require surgery. Their comprehensive approach promotes vascular disease prevention, medical therapy and ongoing, long-term disease management.

Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment

Treatment for peripheral artery disease varies from person to person depending on how severe the condition is and what complications are present or may develop. Our vascular doctors may consider the following goals when creating a treatment plan for peripheral artery disease:

  • Reduce the risk of a major health problem, such as a heart attack or stroke
  • Reduce symptoms
  • Improve mobility, including the ability to walk, climb stairs and perform other daily activities
  • Lower the risk of losing a limb
  • Improve your quality of life

There are several ways to control peripheral artery disease. Your vascular doctor may recommend an exercise program, medicine, a surgical procedure to open or bypass blockages in your arteries or making heart-healthy lifestyle modifications, such as:

  • Quit smoking. It is also important to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke.
  • Follow the DASH eating plan. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a science-based approach to lower blood pressure through healthy recipes, calorie trackers and tips for following the eating plan. Click here to learn about the DASH eating plan.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. Losing just 3% to 5% of your excess weight can help reduce PAD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Get moving. Maintaining an active lifestyle can help manage several PAD risk factors. Still, it is important to ask your doctor before engaging in a particular exercise program to determine if it is right for you.
  • Manage stress. Learn to relax, get good quality sleep and cope with problems to improve your emotional and physical health.

Why Choose Saint Francis Healthcare for Your Vascular Care?

At the Saint Francis Healthcare Vascular Center, our team will perform tests, such as the ankle-brachial index ultrasound, as part of a comprehensive vascular disease screening. If a screening results in a vascular disease diagnosis, our experienced vascular doctors will provide the appropriate treatment, including lifestyle modifications and medical and surgical options.

Ultrasound Procedures Offered at Saint Francis Healthcare to Help Diagnose Peripheral Vascular Disease:

  • Upper and lower extremity vein mapping
  • Venous duplex
  • Abdominal aorta
  • Carotid
  • Abdominal and pelvic
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
  • Venous laser ablation
  • Sclerotherapy and venous injections

Insurance and Payment Plan Options

If you are experiencing any symptoms of vascular disease, now is a good time to begin your journey to better heart and vascular health. At Saint Francis Healthcare, we want to help you get all the information you need to make decisions about your healthcare.

We have dedicated staff available to address your insurance and billing questions and help you make financial arrangements. Saint Francis Healthcare accepts various insurance plans and offers flexible payment plans for most treatments and procedures. Please call us at 833-850-5053 or visit our patient financial resources page for billing and insurance questions. If you have specific questions about your coverage, please contact your insurance provider directly.

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