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N’Dandu: Are your legs just tired or is it something more?

For more than 10 million Americans over the age of 40, leg pain is a common (and often overlooked) warning sign of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – a circulatory condition caused when narrowed arteries decrease the amount of blood flow to your limbs.

Some common symptoms are pain during walking, pain at rest and lower extremity wounds.

Without treatment, PAD could result in amputation, which is why it’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing PAD symptoms.

Treatment Options

Each person has symptoms that are unique to them, so everyone who sees a vascular surgeon for PAD will get an individualized approach and treatment plan, which may include medical therapy or a surgical procedure.

Vascular surgeons determine which is the best option for each patient to give them the most benefit with the least amount of risk.

Their goal is to improve your circulation to keep you active.

Medical Management

There are many ways to treat PAD with non-surgical methods.

This includes a heart-healthy lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, taking certain medications, doing supervised exercise therapy and performing good foot and skin care. Supervised exercise therapy has led to longer pain-free walking distances when compared to certain procedures.

Some medications used to treat pain during walking have led to a doubling in patient walking distance. They work by providing more blood flow to your legs and feet.

Also, they lower your cholesterol and decrease your chance of a heart attack, stroke or blood clot.

Intervention

When medical management does not improve symptoms or if the patient’s symptoms are severe, opening arteries is often recommended.

If best for the patient, minimally-invasive procedures are an option and can get them back on their feet and at home the same day as the procedure.

Minimally-invasive surgical options include:

Balloon angioplasty: using balloons to open the area of narrowing. This allows more blood flow to reach your legs and feet

Stent placement: permanent scaffolding of the artery for it to remain open longer

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) angiogram: For patients with kidney problems, CO2 may be recommended to reduce injury to the kidney during angiograms. The patient can obtain an improvement in their pain without injury to their kidney function

Atherectomy: removes plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) from the blood vessels

Occasionally, PAD is severe enough to need open surgery.

Bypass surgery gives blood a different path around the blocked artery.

Remember – PAD can be serious, but it can be treated. If you or a loved one has symptoms of PAD, connect with your doctor so they can help you understand which treatment option is best for you.

Don’t let PAD change your way of life!

Dr. Zola N’Dandu earned his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. In 2004, he completed his Residency in Internal Medicine at Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital in New Orleans. He then completed a Cardiovascular Fellowship and an Interventional Cardiology Fellowship at Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital. To schedule an appointment with N’Dandu at Ochsner Health Center – River Parishes, call 985-224-1248.