Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. This usually happens due to atherosclerosis - a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. Health experts have now revealed that smoking among youngsters followed by health issues like numbness, pain in the legs, hands and blackening of toes is the sole reason for life threatening PAD.
The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics suggest that the number of people with PAD worldwide has risen by 23.5% in the past 10 years, from 164 million in 2005 to 206 million in 2015. The disease affects mostly people below 40 years of age with a history of heavy smoking and alcohol consumption.
Dr. Ajay Yadav, vascular surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, "The disease starts if certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include smoking, high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, high amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes. Usually when such conditions occur, the body starts a healing process. But here the healing may cause plaque in which the arteries are damaged. Eventually, a section of plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot to form at the site. The build up of plaque or blood clots can severely narrow or block the arteries and limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your body."
WHO statistics also indicate that in 75% of the cases patients come to know about PAD only when they reach the extreme stage due to lack of awareness, which prolongs lack of blood flow in the muscles and tissues, which ultimately die and require to be surgically removed. Emphasizing that the young generation is becoming more prone to PAD, Dr. Yadav said, "The prevalence of the disease among Indian youth is more due to the smaller size of arteries as well as early onset of diabetes, which is often poorly controlled. Apart from smoking habits, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise are also the reasons behind the rise of PAD among youngsters."
Dr. K.R. Suresh, vascular surgeon at Bengaluru based Jivas hospital, said, "The initial level of the disease can be treated by angioplasty with balloons or stents. The procedure is minimally invasive and done through a needle hole in the groin. The patient can get the complete treatment in one day and can start walking and also go home the same evening. Early mobilization, early discharge, minimal hospitalization and everything done through a needle hole with much better patient compliance has made angioplasty the first line treatment for peripheral vascular disease."
Dr. Pius Meena of Kolkata based Downtown hospital said, "Though there were several other treatments in the pipeline for the disease, it was important for people to make lifestyle changes and get health check ups even on feeling any minor numbness in any part of their body. It is important for youngsters to check their smoking habits, watch their diet, weight and control the diabetes if they suffer from it. They should not neglect continuous pain in legs, feet, especially which comes on after walking. It is important for such patients to consult a vascular specialist and get tested."
Noting that prevention was always better than cure, Dr. Meena also said, "Though the initial level of PAD may require only medicines but as severity increases so does the procedure and the surgeries. So one should not ignore minor pain and numbness in the limbs."