When Is Peripheral Artery Disease an Emergency?

Urgent and Emergent When PAD Becomes a Medical Crisis

PAD When it’s an Emergency

Did you know that more than eight million Americans are affected by the notorious peripheral artery disease (PAD)? Yes, that’s right – it’s not a secret society, but a condition where narrowed or blocked arteries wreak havoc on the circulatory system. Especially in the legs, this can make walking a painful endeavor. But here’s the kicker: PAD doesn’t stop there. Oh no, it’s like a two-for-one deal at a discount store. It also puts you at a higher risk for coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Talk about a package deal!

Just ask Lee Kirksey, MD, a vascular surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and vice chair of the clinic’s Vascular Surgery Department. He says, “Patients who have lower extremity PAD have a greater than 80% chance of having some degree of coronary artery disease or carotid artery stenosis.” Woah, that’s a mouthful. But basically, if you have PAD, you’re playing with fire. It’s like walking a tightrope over a bed of hot coals.

But wait, there’s more! People with PAD not only have to worry about their cardiovascular health but also about infections. It’s like playing Whac-A-Mole – smack one problem down, and another one pops up. Reduced circulation can lead to widespread infection or tissue death, resulting in the need for something no one wants to hear – amputation. Ouch!

But here’s the good news, folks. Peter Henke, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medicine, says that PAD doesn’t have to be a heart attack waiting to happen. For many patients, medication and lifestyle changes can keep things stable. It’s like popping a multivitamin and hitting the gym – preventive measures to keep the body running smoothly.

But if things take a turn for the worse, there are signs and signals to watch out for. It’s like having your own personal emergency response system, ready to dial 911 when necessary. So, let’s take a look at these signs that shout, “Danger! Emergency room, here we come!”

Possible Signs of a Heart Attack

PAD doesn’t just mess with your limbs; it also messes with your heart. It’s like having a sneaky thief stealing blood flow from your ticker. And if your heart doesn’t get enough blood, well, that’s bad news all around. So, if you suspect a heart attack, don’t waste a second. Call 911 and get those first responders buzzing like bees.

  • Chest pain or pressure. This one’s a classic. If you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest, or if you have a sense of fullness in the chest, it could be a sign of a heart attack. You might also experience pain or discomfort in your jaw, neck, arms, shoulders, or back. It’s like a game of “Where’s the pain?” – but with much higher stakes.

  • New or worsening fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath. Okay, we get it – PAD already makes you tired and makes it feel like you’re running a marathon with lead shoes. But if you suddenly feel even more tired or out of breath, it could be a cardiac issue playing hide-and-seek with your energy levels. Don’t be fooled – seek help!

  • Nausea, vomiting, or breaking out in a cold sweat. Nobody wants to feel queasy or break out into a clammy sweat. But if it happens suddenly, it could be a sign that your heart is in trouble. And if you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint, that’s like an alarm bell ringing, telling you to head straight to the emergency room.

Possible Signs of Stroke

Now let’s talk about strokes, the brain’s worst nightmare. People with circulatory problems like PAD are at a higher risk of experiencing this terrifying event. But let’s clear something up right away: if you experience any stroke symptoms, don’t delay – call 911 right away. Don’t wait around, hoping it will go away. Those clot-busting treatments need to be given in a flash.

  • Sudden confusion. If you suddenly find yourself struggling to talk, understand what others are saying, write, read, or remember things, it could be a sign that a stroke is knocking on your door. Don’t wait for it to enter – call for help!

  • Numbness or weakness. We know numbness and weakness in your legs and feet are already familiar to you. But if new symptoms occur on one side of your body, it’s like a red flag waving, signaling a possible stroke. Keep an eye out for a drooping face or an uneven smile. It’s like a bad magician’s trick, but this one is real and dangerous.

  • New or worsening difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance. When you have PAD, walking may already feel like navigating a minefield. But if you notice new symptoms that appear out of nowhere or are worse than what you’re used to, don’t brush them off. They could be warning signs of a stroke, and it’s time to seek medical attention.

  • Severe headache or changes in your vision. A sudden, throbbing headache can feel like a metal band clamped around your skull. And if your vision becomes blurred or doubles, well, that’s like seeing double trouble. Call 911 and get help.

Possible Signs of Risky Infection

Infections are the sneaky villains in the world of PAD. And we’re not talking about a simple cut or scrape. We’re talking about an infection so severe that amputation might be on the horizon. Yikes! Time to take matters seriously and avoid any foot traumas or infections like the plague.

  • Sudden, severe pain or inability to move the limb. If your limb is not only in excruciating pain but also numb and cool to the touch, it’s like a warning sign that your artery is playing hide-and-seek with blood flow. You don’t want this game to end in amputation, so head to the emergency room ASAP.

  • Discolored or foul-smelling ulcer, cut, or other wound. Nobody likes the smell of something rotten, especially if it’s coming from your own body. If you notice an ulcer, cut, or wound that looks discolored and smells funky, it’s time to sound the alarm. Darkness and odor are not signs of a good time – they’re signs of a dangerous infection.

Remember, time flies faster than a cheetah chasing its dinner when it comes to PAD emergencies. So don’t ignore the signs or brush them off as something you can deal with later. Seek immediate medical attention and let the experts take care of you. Your heart, limbs, and brain will thank you.

Now it’s your turn, dear readers! Do you have any questions or personal experiences to share about PAD emergencies? Don’t keep them to yourself – join the conversation below!