Peripheral Artery Disease: Patient Stories

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Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is blockage of arteries outside of the heart and brain. PAD can severely affect an individual’s quality of life, and increase risk of life-threatening health conditions, such as heart attack and stroke. The most common sign of PAD is discomfort or pain in the hip, buttocks, thigh or calf that worsens with activities such as walking or climbing stairs but gets better with rest. Since the symptoms can be vague, many individuals live with PAD for years before they are diagnosed. The longer PAD goes untreated, the worse it becomes, and it can eventually lead to discoloration, coldness of the limb or open, non-healing wounds.

Gloria had been experiencing pain in her legs since 2010, with no relief. She couldn’t shop for groceries without pain and had to take frequent breaks when she was walking anywhere. She had been told that it was diabetic neuropathy and prescribed her medication to help with the pain, until she spoke with her cardiologist. She referred Gloria to Dr. Berry for an ultrasound, and once he saw her he knew exactly what the problem was. This year, Dr. Berry put stents in both of Gloria’s legs and cleared the blockages, and now she feels like a new person! She can walk around the grocery store and wear heels to church – all without pain!

The main risk factors of PAD include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. PAD is detected through the use of an ultrasound device that checks the blood pressure in the leg and arm.  Once diagnosed, the severity of the disease must be determined to develop a proper treatment plan. The earlier the disease is caught, the easier it is to treat. The first line of treatment usually involves medical therapy that focuses on risk factor modification to reduce cardiovascular events, improve quality of life and survival.

William had felt pain in his legs for at least the last four years, but he assumed it had to do with getting older. He’d always been active, but over the last few years the pain and cramps he experienced got worse. Before his procedure, he couldn’t walk around his yard for long without need to rest to relieve the pain. Finally, he went to a new primary care provider who referred him to Dr. Berry, and he’s since had the blockages cleared in his right leg. Since then, his leg has felt so much better that he’ll soon have his left leg cleared too!

The second line of treatment involves minimally invasive strategies such as balloon angioplasty and stenting. If you experience any of the symptoms of PAD, talk to your doctor at your next appointment. They can assess whether further testing is needed and how to make lifestyle changes that help reduce your risk factors for PAD. Cone Health has an exceptional network of cardiologists, vascular surgeons and related healthcare providers dedicated to treating PAD and improving patients’ quality of life.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Jonathan Berry is an interventional cardiologist at CHMG HeartCare and the medical director of the peripheral vascular lab at Cone Health.  Dr. Berry is a 1983 graduate of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, completing his residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center.  He specializes in interventional cardiology and peripheral vascular disease, completing fellowships at both Duke University Medical Center and University of Michigan Hospitals. Dr. Berry also serves as a clinical professor at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Gloria Chaplin and William Sebastian are local Cone Health patients.