Nurse Alice - What I wish ALL my Patients Knew About PAD
Nurse Alice is a blogger, author, educator, and critical care and emergency room nurse. She writes in honor of September being National Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month.
PAD stands for Peripheral Artery Disease. Basically, there is fatty build up on the walls of arteries outside the heart and brain. It’s like a traffic jam. Or like when too many people are trying to get through an isle in a grocery store. This build up can restrict blood flow to your legs, feet, arms and other organs in your body potentially leading to tissue damage. If left untreated it can lead to infection or limb amputation.
As a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and emergency room nurse with over 20 years experience, the one thing I wish ALL my patients new about PAD is that is it largely preventable and treatable. But to understand that, you have to know what it is. And while I don’t expect for my patients to be able to recite every fact about PAD, they do need to recognize when something is changing or different with their body and when to follow up with their health provider.
Some important signs and symptoms of PAD to know include:
- Gangrene, or dead tissue – Again, we need to inspect our feet for any color, skin texture or functional changes that can’t be explained.
- Foot or toe wounds that won't heal or heal very slowly – not enough people look at their feet. Our feet are responsible for carrying the weight of our entire body so its important we inspect them for any injuries. And especially in those who are diabetic who may experience neuropathies, which can prevent normal sensations that cue us to when our feet hurt or are injured.
- Leg pain that stops after a few minutes of rest when exercising.
- A marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot particularly compared to the other leg or to the rest of your body. When inspecting our legs – you need to compare one to the other. If one is significantly different from the other – that may clue you in that there’s a problem.
- Poor nail growth on the toes or hair growth on the legs – When there is limited growth in these it may be a sign that there is compromised oxygen rich blood flow to the leg.
- Erectile dysfunction, especially in men with diabetes. Again, PAD is a blood flow circulation problem, which may lead to these conditions.
If you think you or someone you know may be presenting with any of these symptoms, ask yourself – could this be PAD? And take the next step of following up with your health care provider. Time is tissue and the longer you wait, the more damage is happening. Once you see your health care provider, you two can collectively explore if this is in fact PAD and get the proper treatment necessary.