(PRWeb UK) March 7, 2010
UK could reduce number of patients undergoing leg amputation and detect heart disease earlier if diagnosis and treatment of Peripheral Arterial Disease (a hardening or blockage of arteries in the legs) were given higher priority by the NHS and there was better public awareness say the Circulation Foundation. Each year 5,000 leg amputations are carried out in England and Wales, the majority of which are caused by PAD, but there are currently no national clinical standards for doctors to follow and public awareness is low.
Speaking ahead of Saving Legs - a major vascular surgery meeting to coincide with Vascular Disease Awareness Week - Professor Cliff Shearman, President of the Vascular Society said: “We need to start detecting PAD earlier. Recognising and treating PAD in its early stages not only helps to save people’s legs, it also reduces the number of people at risk of heart attacks and stroke as PAD is often a marker of cardiovascular problems.”
PAD is common in adults over 55 with up to 30 per cent of the age group showing signs of the vascular disease but is little known to the public. Four per cent of adults over 55 have symptoms of ‘claudication’, or pain in the muscles of the leg, which restricts walking. If left untreated PAD can result in amputation of the leg but currently over 50 per cent of people who loose their legs from PAD have had no previous treatment to improve their circulation, and there are large variations in the amputation rates across the country.
Research charity the Circulation Foundation says that PAD can be simply detected, but many patients remain undiagnosed. From 8-13 March, the charity is running awareness events across the country explaining the symptoms of PAD, and is publishing new patient information that explains how healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the build up and hardening of the arteries, the main cause of the disease.
Mr Jonothan Earnshaw, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Honorary Secretary of the Vascular Society said: “Everyone over the age of 40 should be ‘vascular aware’ as hardening of the arteries can cause a variety of serious health problems. In some cases early signs such as mild pain in the legs can progress to gangrene or amputation if PAD is left untreated, particularly for smokers and people with diabetes. The earlier the hardening of the arteries is detected, the more that can be done to prevent the complications of PAD and related risk of life- threatening episodes such as heart attacks and strokes.”
Louise Allen, Vascular Nurse Specialist and co-author of new Circulation Foundation patient handbook ‘Are your legs killing you?’ comments: “Many people are simply unaware of the early symptoms of peripheral arterial disease and that they can help to guard against or slow down the progression of the disease by making healthy lifestyle choices, ultimately reducing the risk of amputating a limb.”
Ann Keen, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, said "Stopping smoking is the single biggest prevention measure for vascular disease, that's one of the reasons why we're investing in initiatives such as the NHS Stop Smoking Quit Kit, which has been designed by experts and smokers and a wave of TV advertising which motivates smokers to quit for their children.
"There are prevention strategies in place to tackle vascular disease, particularly those which stem from the Coronary Heart Disease, Diabetes National Service Frameworks and the new NHS Health Check programme. Primary Care Trusts began phased implementation of the NHS Health Check programme from April 2009. This is a national preventative programme that will assess people's risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes and will support people to reduce or manage that risk through individually tailored advice. However, we recognise that it is extremely important that existing disease is picked up by the NHS and the vital role GPs can play in this. Having knowledge about peripheral arterial disease is a fundamental aspect of a GP’s caseload, it is included within the current curriculum for GP specialty training and I welcome this opportunity to raise its profile."
Vascular Disease Awareness Week (8th – 12th March) is run by the Circulation Foundation, the UK’s only national charity dedicated to raising money for pioneering research into the causes, prevention and treatment of vascular disease.
Details about screening and fundraising events supporting Vascular Disease Awareness Week can be found at http://www.circulationfoundation.org.uk, which also provides information, support and advice on vascular disease.