The Link Between Diabetes and Peripheral Arterial Disease

The Link Between Diabetes and Peripheral Arterial Disease
Diabetes is a serious health condition that causes a person's blood sugar to rise because their body does not produce or use insulin properly. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when the arteries that carry blood away from a person's heart to other areas of their body become narrow, most commonly in the legs and feet. It is estimated that between 20-30% of people with diabetes also have PAD. This is because both diabetes and PAD have many of the same risk factors and complications. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or PAD, managing your condition is the best way to prevent it from worsening and contributing to other health issues. Here is what you need to know about the link between diabetes and PAD.

Risk Factors for PAD
Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing PAD. Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, one or more of these risk factors could put you at risk for developing PAD. These risk factors include:
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of diabetes, PAD, or heart disease
Symptoms and Complications of PAD
It is normal for some individuals with PAD to have symptoms that are mild or not noticeable at all. Others may experience symptoms that include:
  • Leg pain when walking that subsides with rest
  • Leg weakness
  • Numbness in the feet or toes
  • Hair loss on legs
  • Ulcer formation with difficulty healing
If left untreated, PAD can lead to many other serious health conditions. Some PAD complications are more likely to occur in individuals who also have diabetes, including:
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Non healing wounds
Diagnosis and Treatment of PAD
Since PAD may not produce symptoms, a healthcare provider is necessary in diagnosing this condition. This is done through a combination of a physical exam, a study known as ankle-brachial index, ultrasound, CT angiography, or angiography. If you are diagnosed with PAD, your healthcare provider will create a personalized treatment plan to help manage your symptoms.
Your treatment plan will be determined by your overall health, lifestyle, and condition. Treatment options for PAD include:
  • Making healthy lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Taking certain medications to treat other conditions that could be contributing to your PAD, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes
  • Surgery may be an option for severe cases to restore blood flow in blocked arteries.
Preventing PAD
While your family's health history and genetics can certainly play a role in developing PAD and diabetes, there are steps you can take to help you prevent both conditions. These include:
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Staying active
  • Avoid using tobacco
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar to reduce your risk of developing PAD
If you have been diagnosed with PAD, these steps can help prevent your condition from progressing and leading to other serious health conditions.

Diabetes and PAD are two serious health conditions that can impact your quality of life and even put your life at risk if not treated. The good news is that you have the power to prevent and manage these conditions by making healthy lifestyle choices. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, keeping your blood sugar under control is a proactive way to lower your risk of developing PAD or other complications including stroke and heart attack. To learn more about preventing or managing PAD, contact the trusted team at The Vascular Institute of the Rockies. Together we can help you live a healthy, happy life for years to come.
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