Two days ago, my 70 year old mother was diagnosed by her primary care physician as having PAD. For several years (approximately 3) she was simply told that her inability to walk even short distances without excruciating pain was possibly because she had two bulging disks in her lower back and ageing. He has referred her to a vascular surgeon, whom she will see in three weeks. She stopped smoking 2 years ago and also has mild COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and has had several small strokes and a history of high blood pressure.
I am absolutely devastated - I have been reading everything I can about PAD ever since, and the prognosis for PAD and life expectancy seems so bleak. I haven't really read anything all that encouraging whatsoever. Nearly everything I have read on the internet includes the words "ominous", "grim outlook", "dire" and "poor prognosis". Nearly every site states such frightening mortality and morbity statistics and I can't seem to find anything that is reassuring.
My question is, is this an automatic death sentence for her? I can barely face her now without wanting to burst into tears and I have become so filled with anxiety. She seems to be unaware of the magnitude of her diagnosis. I don't wish to frighten her by what I have read on the internet. Is this something she can live with and manage? Is this hopeless? Is this a guarantee of death in the short term?
My first comment is that it's commendable that you take such good care of your mother.
Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD, is a general term for blockages of the blood vessels outside of the heart. It is a broad spectrum of disorders ranging from blockages of the carotid vessel which may lead to stroke, blockages to the arteries of the kidneys and blockages to the vessels of the legs. Blockages in the legs can cause symptoms of calf cramping and tightness with exertion called claudication. The discomfort resolves completely with rest. In a more severe stage, patients may have pain in the feet at rest.
It is important to differentiate these symptoms because they represent a different prognosis. Your mother has the less severe of the two, claudication
visit my website to learn more about PAD www.beatpad.org
In general the prognosis of patients with PAD is not a result of the diagnosis but the time of presentation. Most importantly, blockages within your legs are associated with blockages of the heart. When patients have poor prognosis, it is usually because of severe heart disease. I tell patients that it is fortunate to have the diagnosis made because it also gives us the opportunity to evaluate your heart function
Lastly when the appropriate testing is done to identify how severe the problem is, your doctor can tell you if you would benefit most from medicine alone or procedural intervention and medicine.
Take consolation in knowing that your mother has quit smoking, the most modifiable risk factor. With good control of her cholesterol and blood pressure, the process can be halted. Good luck
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