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SIR Again Sponsoring ‘Legs for Life’ to Find PAD that Hits Up to 20% of Seniors

September is PAD Awareness Month; promoting screenings for peripheral arterial disease is more common with aging - some free

Sept. 7, 2011 - Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a common condition affecting 12-20 percent of America’s senior citizens – people age 65 and older - that may not know it can be a signal of future heart attack and stroke. And, many with the disease may be unaware they have it, according to the Society of Interventional Radiology.

For more than a decade, the SIR's national screening program, Legs For Life, has helped identify this very serious and potentially life-threatening condition, according to Sanjay Misra, M.D., FSIR, an interventional radiologist at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Rochester, Minn.

 

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"An integrated program like Legs For Life assists communities with early detection and management of peripheral arterial disease. The key is preventing its progression, which can lead to painful walking, gangrene, amputation, heart attack or stroke," Misra explained

An estimated 10 million people in the United States suffer from peripheral arterial disease. PAD develops mostly as a result of atherosclerosis, a condition that occurs when cholesterol and scar tissue buildup, forming a substance called plaque, which narrows and clogs the arteries and slows blood flow to the legs.

About Peripheral Arterial Disease

PAD is a common circulation problem in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged. This interferes with the normal flow of blood, sometimes causing pain, but often causing no symptoms at all.

The most common cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, often called "hardening of the arteries." Atherosclerosis is a gradual process in which cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called "plaque" that clogs the blood vessels.

In some cases, PAD may be caused by blood clots that lodge in the arteries and restrict blood flow. Left untreated, this insufficient blood flow will lead to limb amputation in some patients.

In atherosclerosis, the blood flow channel narrows from the buildup of plaque, preventing blood from passing through as needed, restricting oxygen and other nutrients from getting to normal tissue. The arteries also become rigid and less elastic, and are less able to react to tissue demands for changes in blood flow.

Many of the risk factors-high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes-may also damage the blood vessel wall, making the blood vessel prone to diffuse plaque deposits.

PAD Symptoms

The most common symptom of PAD is called claudication, which is leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the person stops the activity.

Other symptoms of PAD include: numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, coldness in the lower legs and feet, and ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don't heal.

Many people simply live with their pain, assuming it is a normal part of aging, rather than reporting it to their doctor.

Get Tested for PAD If You

  ● Are over age 50

  ● Have a family history of vascular disease, such as PAD, aneurysm, heart attack or stroke

  ● Have high cholesterol and/or high lipid blood test

  ● Have diabetes

  ● Have ever smoked or smoke now

  ● Have an inactive lifestyle

  ● Have a personal history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or other vascular disease

  ● Have trouble walking that involves cramping or tiredness in the muscle with walking or exercising, which is relieved by resting

  ● Have pain in the legs or feet that awaken you at night

Since plaque blocks the smaller leg arteries first, PAD is considered a red flag for several life-threatening vascular diseases, such as heart attack (the number one killer in the United States) and stroke.

Too often dismissed as just aging

More than 50 percent of PAD patients are asymptomatic and cannot feel the classic warning sign of PAD - leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the person stops the activity. This symptom is typically dismissed as a sign of getting older, as is numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, coldness in the lower legs and feet, and ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don't heal.

In many cases, PAD can be treated with medication (such as blood thinners or drugs that dilate an affected artery), lifestyle changes (such as smoking cessation), diet and a structured exercise program. With early detection, patients could see an interventional radiologist when intervention is most effective and less invasive treatments are still an option.

The SIR says, “If needed, interventional radiologists can perform minimally invasive angioplasty (the widening of a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel) and/or stenting (the insertion of a tiny mesh tube) to open a blocked artery in the leg and restore blood flow.”

About Legs For Life – An Annual Event

SIR annually sponsors Legs For Life - a nationwide community health and public information and PAD screening program. Legs For Life began a decade ago because interventional radiologists - vascular experts who treat PAD—recognized that the disease is a major public health problem with a growing incidence.

During September, National Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month, individuals may find limited free Legs For Life screening sites listed at www.LegsForLife.org. Many interventional radiologists offer year-round screenings by appointment and can be found with SIR's Doctor Finder at http://doctor-finder.SIRweb.org/ (choose "Peripheral Arterial Disease" in the Area of Expertise list). Find out more at www.LegsForLife.org or visit SIR's Web site at www.SIRweb.org.

High-risk groups, such as older Americans, smokers and diabetics, may take SIR's Legs For Life free, online self-assessment quiz at www.LegsForLife.org.

The online quiz helps assess health, family and lifestyle risks for PAD. The higher one's score, the more important it is for that individual to discuss the quiz's results with his or her doctor.

Legs For Life has been sponsored annually by the Society of Interventional Radiology Foundation since September 1998. It is the largest, longest running and most inclusive national vascular disease screening program in the United States. Nearly 322,000 people have been screened to date, with one in four found to be at risk for PAD.

About the Society of Interventional Radiology

Interventional radiologists are physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments. They offer the in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available coupled with diagnostic and clinical experience across all specialties. They use X-ray, MRI and other imaging to advance a catheter in the body, such as in an artery, to treat at the source of the disease internally. As the inventors of angioplasty and the catheter-delivered stent, which were first used in the legs to treat peripheral arterial disease, interventional radiologists pioneered minimally invasive modern medicine. Today, interventional oncology is a growing specialty area of interventional radiology. Interventional radiologists can deliver treatments for cancer directly to the tumor without significant side effects or damage to nearby normal tissue.

Many conditions that once required surgery can be treated less invasively by interventional radiologists. Interventional radiology treatments offer less risk, less pain and less recovery time compared to open surgery. Visit www.SIRweb.org.

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