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Understand the Connection Between Diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) During American Diabetes Month

Nov 14, 2016

Americans living with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing PAD, which disproportionately affects minority and underserved communities

WASHINGTON – The CardioVascular Coalition (CVC), a leading group of community-based cardiovascular and endovascular care providers, physicians, and manufacturers created to advance community-based solutions designed to improve awareness, prevention, and intervention of vascular disease, is highlighting the clinical link between peripheral artery disease (PAD) and diabetes this month during American Diabetes Month.

PAD is a life-threatening circulatory condition, which causes narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs and affects an estimated 18 million Americans.  Diabetics are among the patient groups most likely to receive a PAD diagnosis.  According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated one out of every three people with diabetes over the age of 50 may also have PAD.

“Patients living with diabetes are one of the most at-risk patient populations for developing PAD, however many patients are unaware of this correlation. While diabetes is a chronic condition that most Americans understand and recognize, PAD is much different,” said Jeffrey G. Carr, MD, FACC, FSCAI, an Interventional Cardiologist and Endovascular Specialist and the physician lead on the CardioVascular Coalition. “Unfortunately, too many diabetic patients are simply not aware of PAD symptoms, which increases a patients’ risks for lower limb amputation. If diabetic patients are able to identify the signs of PAD, more timely interventions can help to reduce limb loss among this vulnerable population.”

If not properly managed, both diabetes and PAD can lead to non-traumatic lower limb amputations, which data show lead to lower quality of life and increased risk for death. According to the Amputee Coalition, nearly 60 percent of amputations due to diabetes are believed to be preventable.

The CVC also stresses that significant disparities exist among patient populations in both diabetes and PAD  related limb loss.  African Americans, for example, are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with PAD and are at an increased risk of complications from diabetes, according to research analyzing the prevalence of and risk factors for PAD in the United States. New data further show that racial and ethnic disparities in amputation rates are substantial.  African Americans are approximately twice as likely undergo an amputation as Caucasians.  Similarly, Hispanic Americans are 50 to 75 percent more likely have an amputation than Caucasians.  Researchers warn that as the population ages and comorbidities rise, these disparities may accelerate.

While not every patient with diabetes experiences symptoms of PAD, the CVC urges patients to be aware of the risks. Other symptoms include leg pain, numbness, tingling, or coldness in the lower legs or feet, and sores or infections of the feet or legs that heal slowly.

“American Diabetes Month is an opportunity to underscore how both diabetes and PAD are resulting in unnecessary limb loss in America, which reduces patient quality of life, increases mortality rates and drives up the cost of care,” added Dr. Carr. “As patients, healthcare advocates and other stakeholders focus on diabetes education, awareness and prevention this month, we must also arm patients with the information they need to understand PAD and how to prevent limb loss related to these common chronic conditions.”

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