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