Legs For Life free national screening program can save legs

The screening is essential for diabetics in order to prevent amputation, heart attack and stroke, because one-third have PAD, but most do not present classic symptoms.

Legs For Life is the largest, longest running and most inclusive national vascular disease screening program in the United States.

The program has been held annually since 1998 in September, which is Vascular Disease Awareness Month.

Although 10 million Americans have PAD, diabetics are at highest risk with one in three over age 50 affected.

PAD is “hardening of the arteries” in the legs most often due to atherosclerosis that occurs when “plaque” builds up inside the arteries causing them to clog and narrow.

As diabetes affects every vascular bed in the body and increases the risk for accelerated atherogenesis—the formation of plaque build-up in the lining of the arteries, diabetics are especially susceptible to PAD.

In real terms this means that 18.2 million Americans with diabetes are at risk of PAD.

Because atherosclerosis is a systemic disease, people with PAD are likely to have blocked arteries in other areas of their body.

Over time, the plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks the smaller arteries first, such as in the legs.

This causes decreased blood flow to the legs, which can result in pain when walking, and eventually gangrene and amputation.

Eventually the larger arteries, such as those in the heart or the carotid artery to the brain, become blocked as well, so PAD in the legs is in fact an early warning for future life-threatening vascular disease.

Interventional radiologist and Legs For Life Chair Harvey Wiener, says that if undetected, peripheral arterial disease can lead to amputation and increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack and stroke.

Apparently this progression of PAD results in death for about one-third of patients.

Due to the vascular damage caused by the progression of diabetes, more than 50 percent of diabetic PAD patients are asymptomatic and cannot feel the classic warning sign of PAD – intermittent claudication, or leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the person stops the activity.

This makes screening essential as one-third of diabetics have peripheral arterial disease.

By the time they do notice they have a problem, they are often facing amputation, kidney damage, or stroke says Wiener.

He says that diabetics and their doctors need to get into the habit of an annual ABI test to look for PAD.

During the Legs For Life screening, an ankle brachial index (ABI) test is used to detect PAD.

This quick, painless test compares the blood pressure in the legs to the blood pressure in the arms to determine how well the blood is flowing and whether further tests are needed.

Additionally during Legs For Life, interventional radiologists screen for related vascular diseases, including abdominal aortic aneurysm, and carotid artery disease that can lead to stroke.

Screening is recommended if you:-

  • Have diabetes
  • Have ever smoked or smoke now
  • Are over age 50
  • Have a family history of vascular disease, such as PAD, aneurysm, heart attack or stroke
  • Have high cholesterol or a high lipid blood test
  • Are overweight
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have a personal history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or other vascular disease
  • Have cramping or tiredness in the muscle when walking or exercising, which is relieved by resting
  • Have pain in the legs or feet that awakens you at night

PAD can often be treated with lifestyle changes, and sometimes stopping smoking, a structured exercise program, and medication are all that is needed to alleviate symptoms and prevent further progression of the disease.

Early detection could slow the progression of the disease, and avoid much less invasive treatment options, saving patients from amputation, says Wiener.

The Society of Interventional Radiology Foundation is a scientific foundation dedicated to fostering research and education in interventional radiology for the purposes of advancing scientific knowledge, increasing the number of skilled investigators in interventional radiology, and developing innovative therapies that lead to improved patient care and quality of life.

More information can be found at http://www.LegsForLife.org or http://www.SIRweb.org.

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