A Patient Blogpost by Bill, Vascular Cures Patient Partner :

I was diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) by my primary care provider some ten years ago. Having never heard of this disease before, the first thing I did when I got home was Google it. On the whole, the news was not very encouraging. For as prevalent as the disease was, I didn’t find much in the popular medical literature about it. I did find a lot of information about lifestyle changes, such as including plenty of walking in my routine.

I have always worked at controlling my weight and forced myself to run (jog) regularly to maintain some level of aerobic fitness. I was lucky enough to avoid medications for much of my adult life. I also never had much of a taste for beer or tobacco.

In other words, I was already following the physician-recommended diet and lifestyle habits – how did I come down with PAD?

My original vascular team consisted of three surgeons. I managed to be seen by each surgeon over the years. All three vascular specialists had the same basic approach to treatment – stay away from alcohol and tobacco. They recommended medications for blood pressure blood clots prevention and walking.

About five years later, my legs were telling me that things were getting worse. They were cramping up at the slightest incline and climbing hills on my bike was becoming more and more difficult. On a trip to New Orleans, I could only walk half of a city block before needing to stop for a rest. My symptoms seemed to be getting worse. I decided to look for another vascular surgeon for a fourth opinion.

I found a perfect candidate, and with the help of my PCP, we convinced my HMO to allow me to recruit a new specialist. On my first encounter with my new vascular surgeon, it seemed that I had barely started to describe my symptoms when he suggested endovascular surgery. I questioned the immediate choice of lifestyle changes, but he batted away one concern of mine after another.

The surgery succeeded in improving the endurance in my right leg, but it did not last past a year. In the meantime, my HMO merged with another health care system and I was introduced to vascular surgeon number five, also a believer in the surgical approach. Instead of another surgical attempt, we tried medication with an enhanced blood thinner. This seems to be working. Things have not gotten worse and I can detect some improvement in both legs.

I understand that everyone’s experience with PAD is different. But I learned some valuable lessons from the different surgeons I encountered:

  • For one, get a second opinion. Look for individual physicians from different practices to get different perspectives.
  • Do your homework, if you have the time. Search online, but don’t pass up the skills of a knowledgeable and experienced librarian. If you have access to a local medical library, use it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what you are hearing or reading.
  • Be prepared for your next visit. Attend your doctor’s visit armed with data. Keep a log or a journal and be specific about your symptoms when you write them down.
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