LAFAYETTE- Judy Turner, 63 of Duscon, La, was experiencing severe pain in her legs. Her toes were blue and her feet always felt cold, so much that she could not sleep at night. “It hurt so badly; I could hardly walk,” she said. “The only way I could stand was to put pressure on my heels because the pain was so great.”
Turner was referred to a cardiologist at Cardiovascular Institute of the South, where she was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is caused by plaque build-up or blockages in the legs, and like blocked arteries in the heart, can lead to cardiovascular complications. Dr. Ankur Lodha, interventional cardiologist at CIS, performed an interventional procedure on Turner in August, placing stents in both of her legs to open the 99 percent blockage. She could immediately tell a difference. “The next day, my toes were changing color already. Now, I have no pain and they are a regular color.”
She said she had a great experience at CIS. “Dr. Lodha tells you every detail. I was scared but he was very caring and comforting.”
Turner knew she had a family history of heart disease, especially with a younger sister passing away from a heart condition. She also knew that being a cigarette smoker put her at an increased risk. But, she never thought her leg pain was associated with cardiovascular disease. “I really didn’t think it had anything to do with a blockage. I had never seen that before,” she explained. She also had not experienced any previous symptoms of cardiovascular disease or PAD.
Though PAD is a common and treatable disease, it is largely unknown and its symptoms are often unrecognized or attributed to old age. Symptoms of PAD may include:
- open ulcer/wound on the bottom of your foot that does not heal
- pain in the feet or legs that goes away with walking
- severe cramping in your calf after exercising that goes away immediately when stopping
- discoloration of the legs/feet
- numbness or coldness in legs/feet
- pale, shiny skin
Those at risk for PAD include anyone over the age of 50, especially African Americans; those who smoke or have smoked; and those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or a personal or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke. If you think you may have PAD, a simple, painless ultrasound can test the blood flow in your legs to determine your risk.
Turner recommends being checked if you show any symptoms or have a family history of heart disease. “Get to a doctor right away!” said Turner. “Don’t play with it!”
Turner has 13 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. She said her quality of life has improved greatly since her procedure. She also has committed to quitting smoking by enrolling in Commit to Quit, the tobacco cessation program at CIS.
“I can do anything now and I can walk so much better,” she said. “Now I can stroll through the store with my grandkids.”