An estimated 10 million Americans, many of them over 50, have peripheral vascular disease, or PVD clogged arteries in the legs that trigger numbness or intense pain during even minimal activity.
Many are in denial, chalking up their pain to advancing age. But left untreated, PVD can be a dangerous disease.
In an effort to identify some of those people, a coalition of medical organizations is taking the unusual step of offering free screenings and referrals for peripheral vascular disease at 500 hospitals across the country including Payson Regional Medical Center.
"PVD can affect not only quality of life, but often may be the first sign of a problem with clogged blood vessels throughout the body," Dr. Kevin Danielson, M.D., PRMC's chief radiologist, said. "That's why it is so important to identify early, when it can readily be treated before serious problems occur."
The Legs for Life National Screening Week for PVD Leg Pain will take place Sept. 22 through 28. At PRMC, screenings will take place Thursday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, Sept. 28 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Peripheral vascular disease is caused by the same phenomenon that clogs coronary arteries and triggers chest pain the build-up of cholesterol-filled plaques. Just as angina, or chest pain, is a sign the heart isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood, especially upon exertion, leg pain after a minimal amount of walking means leg muscles are starving for oxygen.
PVD can not only be a health-wrecker, but a life-wrecker, too. It not only severely impairs mobility but can lead to skin ulcers and gangrene and ultimately, may require the amputation of toes, feet or legs, especially in diabetics, who are at high risk of circulatory problems to begin with.
The most common symptom of PVD is painful cramping in the leg or hip, particularly when walking. This symptom, also known as "claudication," occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the leg muscles during exercise. The pain typically goes away when the muscles are given a rest.
Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg. In severe cases, you may experience a burning or aching pain in your foot or toes while resting, or develop a sore on your leg or foot that does not heal. People with PVD also may experience a cooling or color change in the skin of the legs or feet, or loss of hair on the legs. In extreme cases, untreated PVD can lead to gangrene.
The PVD screening involves the completion of a brief lifestyle questionnaire, followed by a simple, painless test that compares blood pressure in the arms and ankles, according to PRMC Assistant CEO Missy Spencer.
More than 2,000 people have been screened since the annual Legs for Life program began in 1998. One in four people screened are found to be at moderate to high risk for PVD, and are referred to their primary-care physicians for further testing.
Treatment for PVD can range from lifestyle changes, including diet modifications and exercise, to medication, minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty, and surgery.
To learn more about PVD and Legs for Life, visit the website www.legsforlife.org, or call the toll-free consumer information line at (877) 357-2847.
PVD screenings will be given at the Health Outreach Center, 215 S. Beeline Highway, from Sept. 26 through Sept. 28. To make an appointment, call (928) 468-1012.
Your answers to these questions will help you know if you are at risk.
Do you have cardiovascular (heart) problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke?
Do you have diabetes?
Do you have a family history of diabetes or cardiovascular problems (immediate family such as parent, sister, brother)?
Do you have aching, cramping or pain in your legs when you walk or exercise, but then the pain goes away when you rest?
Do you have pain in your toes or feet at night?
Do you have any ulcers or sores on your feet or legs that are slow in healing?
Do you smoke?
Have you ever smoked?
Are you more than 25 pounds overweight?
Do you eat fried or fatty foods three times a week or more?
Do you have an inactive lifestyle?
The more "Yes" answers you have, the more important it is for you to see your doctor, and to take advantage of PRMC's free PVD screening.