Peripheral Arterial Disease is a common problem in our society. It is estimated that up to 25% of people aged over 55 have significant arterial occlusive disease. Arterial disease is in the majority of cases caused by a process known as “atherosclerosis”. This is the same disease process that causes heart attacks and strokes. This disease causes narrowing and blockage of arteries, thus limiting blood supply.
A number of risk factors have been conclusively identified that increase a person’s chances of developing arterial disease. The 4 major risk factors that can be modified/treated are Smoking, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol and Diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes alone significantly increases the risk and severity of atherosclerosis. Other causes that we cannot change include family history (genetics), increasing age and being male.
Peripheral Arterial Disease can cause a number of problems. Initially people tend to suffer pain when walking, generally a cramping sensation in the calf or thigh that occurs when walking a certain distance. This is called Claudication.
As the arterial blockages progress, pain at night and even skin ulcers and gangrene in the worst situation can occur. This requires urgent treatment or amputation can be the only option.
Thankfully, there are many treatment options including medication, minimally-invasive (“key-hole”) balloon angioplasty and stenting, and sometimes bypass surgery may be required.
Ballon Angioplasty – a ballon is introduced
into the artery and inflated to push the disease
outwards, stretch the artery open, thus restoring
An example of a “stent” which may be placed
within any artery vid a needle in the groin, that
acts as a type of “scaffold” to hold the artery open