Excessive smoking may not only lead to heart diseases, but also cause peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or narrowing of arteries in the legs. Patel Singh, a Delhi resident, recently realized this when unbearable pain in one of his limbs turned out to be connected to the severest form of PAD causing multiple blockages.
Singh (58) had blockage in the aorta above the kidneys, at the level of the navel where the aorta divides into two for the thighs, and in the middle of each thigh.Director and senior consultant (cardiothoracic and vascular surgery) at BLK superspecialty hospital, Dr Sushant Srivastava said it took six hours for Singh’s surgery , which involved opening up the chest, abdomen and legs at the same time to place a synthetic graft for normal blood flow in the blocked blood vessels. “The patient would have lost his affected limb if operation was not done in time,” the doctor said.
The doctor added that cases of PAD have gone up due to increase in incidence of diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking. “If the condition is diagnosed early , the risk factor can be reduced with lifestyle changes. However, due to lack of awareness about PAD, most patients come when the disease has already progressed necessitating surgery or amputation,” he explained.
Doctors say that most people understand the severity of heart attacks, but are not aware of PAD which is characterized by pain in calves and thighs. It occurs only while walking and is relieved by rest. In severe blockages, a patient experiences constant burning pain in the foot along with bluish discoloration of toes or even gangrene of the toes. Gangrene leads to blackening of the toes and later the legs.
Dr Srivastava said the only way to prevent this condition is by controlling diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. “Smoking should be stopped completely and a healthy lifestyle must be adopted,” he added