Disease That Occurs in Non-Coronary Vascular Systems
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), sometimes referred to as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), is a common condition that is classified as any disease occurring in blood vessels outside of the heart and brain. Around 5% of the adult population is believed to be currently afflicted with peripheral vascular disease, and because this condition can show the potential for arterial disease within the heart and brain, evaluation and treatment is highly recommended at an early stage. Symptoms of PVD include cramping, numbness, coldness, and/or weakness in the legs and feet, as well as a slowing of hair and nail growth and/or the presence of sores that won’t heal on the lower extremities.
What are the Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease?
The main causes for PAD are blood vessel inflammation, injury, abnormal anatomy, radiation exposure, and atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries. Some pre-existing conditions and certain lifestyle choices, however, can also contribute to a heightened risk for developing PAD. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hypertension are at an increased risk, as well as those who smoke cigarettes, are obese, or who are generally inactive. Age and family history can also contribute to a person developing PAD.
How is Peripheral Vascular Disease Evaluated?
Testing for PAD is recommended in anyone over the age of 70, in anyone over the age of 50 with a family history of PAD, and in select patients under the age of 50 who have certain pre-existing risk factors. Our office offers a broad range of testing options in order to better evaluate conditions related to peripheral vascular disease:
This is a sound wave based procedure that is done in the office and which is safe and effective in the diagnosis of blockages found in arteries outside of the heart. This procedure can be used to determine the presence and extent of disease in the carotid arteries, which are the two major arteries between the heart and the brain, located on each side of the neck. Carotid ultrasounds are recommended for individuals who have had a stroke in the past or who have had passing out episodes. Ultrasounds can also be used to determine the presence and extent of disease in the arteries of the legs or kidneys.Segmental Pressure Testing or Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)
In this method, blood pressure cuffs are placed and inflated at various points along a patient’s leg. These pressures are then compared to the pressure of the arm, helping to determine whether the current blood flow is adequate or if further action is needed.
Aortic Aneurysm Screening
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a potentially life-threatening condition that oftentimes shows no symptoms at all until it is too late. This preventative screening is painless and non-invasive and is especially recommended in men who are smokers or ex-smokers between the ages of 65 and 75.
Finally, after all non-invasive methods have been exhausted, the physicians at Tampa Cardiovascular Associates may recommend performing an angiography procedure. This procedure involves the injection of contrast material into the arteries. Using x-ray based techniques, your physician will then have a viewable image, or map, of your arteries onscreen, providing them with essential information regarding the presence, extent, and location of disease in the arteries.
How is Peripheral Arterial Disease Treated?
Medications are always our first line of therapy in an attempt to reduce symptoms, as we also embark on a long-term plan of lifestyle and risk factor modification with you. However, if all efforts in non-invasive therapy have failed and multiple tests have confirmed the diagnosis, the physicians at Tampa Cardiovascular Associates may decide to proceed with angioplasty, with or without stenting. Angioplasty involves the ballooning of blockages in the arteries, and, if the result is not optimal, the placement of a stent – a metal mesh that keeps the arteries open and improves the blood flow. This procedure can be used to treat blockages in the arteries of the legs in order to improve symptoms, in the arteries of the neck in order to reduce the risk of future strokes (only after careful discussion with surgeons), and in the arteries of the kidneys in order to improve blood flow to the kidneys, which prevents some of the complications associated with such blockages.
If you are at risk for peripheral vascular disease and would like an evaluation, please contact the Tampa Cardiovascular Associates and schedule an appointment at our Tampa peripheral vascular disease center today!