Keeping Diabetes Awareness on the Peripheral

Patients with diabetes need to be aware that reduced blood flow to the legs increases their risk of stroke and heart attack.

PAD occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. This can result in leg muscle pain when walking, disability, amputation, and poor quality of life. Blocked arteries found in people with PAD can be a red flag that other arteries, including those in the heart and brain, may also be blocked — increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

November is National Diabetes Month, and the Vascular Disease Foundation and its PAD Coalition are urging people with diabetes to be alert to the warning signs of PAD. People with PAD may have one or more of the following symptoms:

1) “Claudication” — fatigue, heaviness, tiredness or cramping in the leg muscles (calf, thigh or buttocks) that occurs during activity such as walking and goes away with rest.

2) Foot or toe pain at rest that often disturbs sleep.

3) Skin wounds or ulcers on the feet or toes that are slow to heal (or that do not heal for 8 to 12 weeks).

Unfortunately, PAD is often a silent disease, causing no recognizable symptoms. National medical guidelines recommend that adults over 50 years of age with diabetes be tested for PAD Testing should also be considered in patients under 50 years of age with diabetes and at least one other cardiovascular risk factors such as a history of smoking, abnormal cholesterol and/or high blood pressure.

The test for PAD is called the ankle-brachial index, a painless, non-invasive test that compares the blood pressure in the ankles with the blood pressure in the arms.

“Poor circulation in the legs — particularly in people with diabetes – is a serious problem,” stated Joseph Caporusso, DPM, Chair of the PAD Coalition. “Without proper blood flow, a minor problem such as a cut or blister may not heal properly and may lead to an infection. If not treated promptly, these problems can result in amputation of a toe, foot or part of the leg.”

Source: Vascular Disease Foundation