Peripheral Arterial Disease is a hidden and deadly disease
By Kathy Feist
Not many people know about Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and that’s a concern, according to Dr. David Burkart who specializes in cardiovascular disease and vascular and interventional radiology at St. Joseph Medical Center.
“The mortality rate for PAD is higher than for breast cancer and prostate cancer,” he said. “The rate is similar to that of colon cancer.”
PAD is the narrowing or blockage of the arteries that are outside of the heart, typically in the legs, neck or kidneys. It affects one in four people over the age of 70, and one in four people over the age of 50 who are diabetic, says Burkart.
A key indicator of PAD is leg pain or fatigue when walking short distances or climbing stairs. “With PAD, the blood can’t get down the leg due to blockage in the arteries. So the calf starts hurting after walking half a block,” says Burkart. “When they stop to take a break, the symptom disappears.” The pain can occur in the buttocks, thighs or calves.
PAD is underdiagnosed because the pain is not chronic.
“It is one of the more ignored diseases by doctors,“ Says Burkart. “Patients will tell their doctor they don’t have the symptoms anymore, so then the doctors don’t take it seriously.”
But there is a more reliable way to diagnose the disease than just pain, and that is blood pressure.
“Take your blood pressure in your arm and at your ankle. If the blood pressure in your arm is 120 and the ankle is 40, then something is blocking the blood flow,” explains Burkart.
Decreased pulses in the leg is also an indicator. Burkart says today there are fancy devices that can be put on your toe to test your pulse.
During the month of September, which is Peripheral Artery Disease Month, St. Joseph Medical Center is having free 15-minute screenings. If you experience pain in the leg that disappears upon rest, consider calling 816-943-4555 for an appointment.