Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition that develops when the
arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms and legs become
completely or partially blocked due to atherosclerosis. There are many
possible side effects of atherosclerosis including angina and heart attacks
if the coronary arteries are involved; strokes and transient ischemic
attacks if the carotid and vertebral arteries are involved; and claudication,
non-healing leg ulcers and critical limb ischemia if the lower extremity
arteries are involved.
PAD poses particular problems for health care professionals and patients
with chronic wounds. Chronic toe and foot sores are common in people with
PAD, as are cramping, numbness, weakness or heaviness in the leg muscles.
Many patients with PAD do not experience symptoms.
"Even though patients may not have symptoms, they should be aware
of the factors that put them more at risk for PAD," said Jessica
Bergeron, FNP for Cortland Regional’s Wound Care Center. “In
our community we tend to see smokers and high incidences of diabetes.
These factors are what make resolving long-term, non-healing wounds a
That’s why our Wound Care Center performs tests for PAD, treats
chronic wounds which may have underlying conditions of PAD and counsels
patients on how to manage PAD.
There are several ways to diagnose PAD such as medical history, tobacco
use, physical exams and diagnostic tests. An ankle-brachial index (ABI)
test may be performed, as well. Painless and easy, this test compares
the blood pressure reading in the ankles with a blood pressure reading
in the arms. A Doppler ultrasound test may be done to see which artery
or arteries are blocked.
The Cortland Regional Wound Care Center recommends the following action
steps to help manage PAD:
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, correcting blood pressure and
- Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors
for the development of PAD. Managing these conditions can help improve
Develop healthy eating habits and an exercise plan
- Exercising can help increase the circulation and reduce pain in the lower
extremities. Walking, hiking and bike riding are good exercise options.
A personal trainer can help tailor a custom workout plan that best fits
a person’s needs.
- Always consult with a physician about which medications may help PAD and
if they are needed.
Special procedures and surgeries
- In some severe cases of PAD, surgery may be needed to open arteries that
have narrowed. Consult with a physician to see if surgery is a necessary
For more information, call the Cortland Regional Wound Care Center at 607-753-0993.