Diabetes is a life-changing disease that can threaten your health in many ways, besides what it does to your blood-sugar regulation. You may already know that it can affect your vision and even lead to kidney damage or liver disease. But you may not know that diabetes can also increase your risk for peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
How Diabetes Increases the Risk of PAD
Diabetes is a disease caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to metabolize food for energy. When sugars build up in the bloodstream, complications can occur. The two most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. Approximately 10% of all diabetes diagnoses is Type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes; about 90% of all diabetes diagnoses is Type 2 diabetes, previously known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Many risk factors for this disease are almost identical to risk factors associated with peripheral artery disease (PAD).
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), which occurs when the peripheral arteries—those that do not supply blood to the heart and brain—become narrowed by an accumulation of fats, cholesterol, and other substances. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. People with diabetes are more likely to develop atherosclerosis, which can progress to PAD.
How PAD Could Affect You
You need proper blood circulation to keep all parts of your body healthy. If you are not getting good circulation to your arms or legs because of PAD, you could suffer serious pain. Your chronic pain might just lower your quality of life, or it could actually limit your mobility. The reduced circulation can also mean that wounds take longer to heal, which can lead to serious infection. You can even develop gangrene, which can require the amputation of a foot or leg.
It is important that you control your diabetes and your PAD in order to protect your quality of life and your overall health.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes and PAD
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, as noted, are almost identical to the risk factors associated with atherosclerosis and PAD, and include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Complications of Diabetes and PAD
People with diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) often develop non-healing ulcers, which can make both diseases more difficult to treat. The slow healing associated with diabetes and PAD may suggest that one disease exacerbates the other.
Making Lifestyle Changes Can Help Both Diabetes and PAD
The good news when considering the diabetes and PAD connection is that making lifestyle changes to help with one disease can also lower your risk factors for developing the other. Lifestyle changes can slow progression of PAD and relieve the serious complications associated with diabetes. However you can lowering your risk for developing PAD and diabetes with the following lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering cholesterol
Extra Precautions for Diabetics
Although diabetes and peripheral artery disease share some of the same risk factors, people who have been diagnosed with diabetes should take a few extra precautions.
For people with diabetes, controlling insulin levels is critical to avoiding the complications of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. If diet and exercise are not working to control insulin levels, it is important to make an appointment with an endocrinologist.
If you experience pain in your legs when walking or develop diabetic foot ulcers that do not heal, it is important to see your doctor immediately. This can help you avoid amputation due to diabetes and/or to rule out peripheral arterial disease.
Treatment of PAD
The best treatment of PAD is the prevention of PAD. If you have diabetes, you need to take your medication and follow diet recommendations to keep blood sugar levels under control and help prevent plaque from forming in your arteries.
If you have peripheral arterial disease, you can treat the condition with procedures that open narrowed or blocked arteries in your extremities. Some procedures involve inserting a balloon into the artery and inflating it to open the passage. Another option involves placing a stent in the artery to keep it open permanently.
Laser treatment can also be used to clear plaque from the artery. In severe cases, a bypass may be performed to route the blood around the blocked artery.
Coastal Vascular Center performs all of these treatments and aims to provide solutions using the least invasive option available. We aim to restore arterial health so that you can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as other side effects that can reduce your quality of life. Call us today at 713-999-6056 to speak with one of our specialists and learn about your treatment options.