Judith Taylor has experienced her first uninterrupted sleep in what feels like an eternity. She is no longer awakened by pain or numbness in her feet caused by peripheral artery disease (pAVK) diagnosed three years ago. She no longer needs extra blankets and socks to keep her left foot, which has the worst blood circulation, warm.
„This foot used to be so cold that it would wake me up in the middle of the night,“ says Taylor, a 68-year-old pastor in Shreveport, LA. „Now, it’s the foot keeping the others warm.“
As one of the more than 8.5 million Americans with pAVK, a narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply the extremities, most commonly the legs, Taylor found relief through angioplasty. Having two procedures within two years, both involving stent placement, she remained in the hospital for several days.
The first procedure kept her artery clear for a year, the second for 8 months. The most recent angioplasty involved two balloons and a stent inserted into her leg. She went home the same evening and felt almost immediately better.
However, the procedure is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each case is unique, and there’s no universal treatment plan.
„You must see your doctor because treating pAVK is different for everyone,“ says Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist at Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas.
„In some mild cases, walking might lead to improvement, and that’s perfect,“ says Samaan. „But you need to get evaluated, know what you’re dealing with, what type of blockage it is, and how severe it is.“
In mild cases, risk-reducing pharmacology might suffice, said Dr. Matthew Corriere, a vascular surgeon at the University of Michigan’s Health Frankel Cardiocular Center.
„They may have no symptoms,“ says Corriere, „but they still have an elevated risk for heart attack and stroke. We give them low-dose aspirin and a statin. This reduces the risk of pAVK progression, but also reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.“
For some, surgery or a less invasive intervention would be futile. They manage their chronic condition and are doing well.
From the onset of the disease, doctors emphasize the importance of these key factors:
- Quitting smoking, the main cause of pAVK
- Managing diabetes
- Starting an exercise routine
However, if pain and discomfort worsen, impacting daily life more severely, other options become viable.