When a sore or wound doesn't have sufficient blood supply or circulation, it affects your body's ability to heal the wound and can increase the risk of infection. That’s why people with poor circulation due to peripheral arterial disease (PAD) often need special care for healing wounds.
Peripheral arterial disease is the narrowing of the arteries in your arms and legs, limiting blood flow to your muscles. It's most often caused by atherosclerosis, the same condition that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fat and cholesterol — called plaque — in the arteries that causes them to narrow or become blocked. When blood supply is cut off from tissue, it hinders healing of sores and can eventually lead to tissue death and require amputation in the most serious cases. People with diabetes, who are at greater risk of developing PAD, have to be particularly careful to avoid foot injuries, which can lead to diabetic foot ulcers. Vascular diseases, including diabetes, are a leading cause of amputations in the United States.
The good news is that most patients with vascular disease can prevent serious complications by getting proper treatment for sores in the early stages, before they become serious. Exercising, medications, eating properly, avoiding tobacco and managing any underlying conditions — such as diabetes or high blood pressure — can help prevent PAD from developing or progressing. For patients with PAD or other conditions that impede wound healing, the Ohio State limb preservation program offers central Ohio's most advanced treatments to prevent the loss of a limb.
Recognizing Symptoms of PAD
Although many people with PAD don’t have symptoms, they could include:
- Pain, numbness, achiness or heaviness in the leg muscles when walking or climbing stairs
- Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
- Sores on the toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly or not at all
- A pale or bluish color to the skin
- A lower temperature in one leg than the other
- Poor nail growth on the toes and decreased hair growth on the legs
- Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center doctors are experts at diagnosing and treating vascular disease. Our doctors diagnose PAD and measure blood flow with the assistance of imaging specialists, using exams such as ultrasound and transcutaneous oxygen measurement. Your Ohio State doctor will educate you on how to limit your risk of complications and will develop a personalized treatment plan for you.
Special Care for Healing
The Ohio State Comprehensive Wound Center’s professionals specialize in difficult-to-heal wounds that are often associated with PAD. Specially trained wound care experts work collaboratively with specialists in vascular medicine, endocrinology, surgery, physical therapy, nutrition and other specialties to design a comprehensive care program that draws from the latest treatments for wound healing.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may use hyperbaric oxygen therapy to improve oxygen saturation and enhance healing, or may perform minimally invasive vascular procedures or complex reconstructive surgery to promote healing. Your care team will include specialists from a variety of areas to address the causes and treatment for your wound.