Did you know that over 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss, and vascular conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD) are the number one cause of those losses? If those statistics sound scary, consider this: current estimates suggest that, by the year 2050, an estimated 3.6 million people will be struggling to deal with a lost limb like a foot or leg.
While vascular conditions are responsible for the most amputations in this country, they aren’t the sole culprit: trauma; cancers; and birth defects also take a major toll on limbs.
A Closer Look at Limb Loss Statistics
In a year-long study by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, researchers
uncovered some frightening statistics:
- Diabetics have a 10 times higher risk of amputation than individuals who don’t have diabetes.
- Among diabetics, those of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans backgrounds have an even higher risk of lower limb loss.
- 82 % of amputations in the U.S. are the result of vascular disease, and this percentage is expected to rise as more Americans develop diabetes and PAD.
Diabetes, PAD and Limb Loss
What’s the connection between these big three problems? Let’s take a closer look. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired.
When diabetes is poorly controlled, glucose can build up in the blood stream and contribute to the development of plaque, a substance that can narrow your arteries and reduce blood flow, usually to your legs and feet. In fact, that’s the definition of PAD—a condition that sets in when blood vessels develop atherosclerosis (built up plaque) inside the vessel walls. The plaque narrows the vessels narrower, slowing blood flow. If a blockage hardens it is more likely to burst and cause a blood clot to develop. A clot may completely block your artery, which cuts off blood flow to your legs and feet. If that occurs, a few things could happen.
Because of the reduction in blood flow that comes with PAD, the vascular condition is a risk factor for foot ulcers (deep wounds that just won’t heal), and foot ulcers frequently lead to foot and lower limb amputations, especially in diabetic patients. In severe instances, where all blood flow to the legs and feet is blocked, gangrene can take hold in your limbs and lead to an amputation before you even see an ulcer or any other warning sign.
Are you starting to get the picture? Each condition feeds into the next, putting individuals at major risk of losing vital limbs.
Who’s At Risk for PAD?
- Anyone over the age of 50
- Obese or sedentary individuals
- People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure
PAD Treatment Options
In order to treat PAD, you must first be properly diagnosed. Without a comprehensive vascular exam, available in our Houston vein clinic, it’s difficult to spot PAD—because symptoms can imitate other problems, PAD is often misdiagnosed or not caught at all!
Once you know that you have PAD, we can determine a treatment plan: interventions may be as simple as recommending lifestyle changes like a better diet and exercises. Depending on the progression of the disease, our vein doctor may recommend unblocking your arteries through one of our minimally invasive interventional radiology treatments.
Our goal as vein doctors is to protect your vein health and your limbs. Know the risks of PAD and, if you believe you may have this condition, come in for a consultation. One simple exam could keep you from becoming part of this country’s growing group of limb loss victims.