COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - How many of you talk in your households about peripheral artery disease? Apparently, quite a few of you.
That's because the Columbia area has one of the highest rates in the country.
A Lexington man found out that nagging pain in his leg was something much more serious.
A few years ago, crawling under houses and doing all that's required as a plumber became very difficult for Dean Carroll of Carroll Plumbing.
"I cannot walk from my truck to the customer's house without being in pain. And going up one flight of stairs, I was in tremendous pain in the right leg," said Carroll.
Dean is one of the 8.5 million Americans who suffer from peripheral artery disease or P.A.D. for short.
"I would get a burning, cramping sensation in my upper thigh and it would work its way down to the calf muscles. I would have to stop four or five minutes, then I could take off and walk another hundred feet but have to stop again," said Carroll.
P.A.D. is a circulatory problem in which narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the limbs. It affects blood vessels outside the heart.
Dr. Terry Norton of Southern Surgical Group at Lexington Medical Center is Dean's specialist.
"That group would include blood vessels that go to the brain. Blood vessels that go to kidneys, intestines, and the legs. And even further down than that, what most people talk about when they talk about it they talk about legs. That element that affects blood flow to the lower extremities,” said Dr. Norton.
In planning for an operation to open the narrowed arteries, the surgeon noticed Dean had another problem - a blocked carotid artery in his neck.
"They found out that my right carotid was 90 some percent blocked off. They cut me right up through here and cleaned that out. He said he had to do that before you could do my leg because I could've thrown a blood clot,” said Carroll.
In two different surgeries over time, Dr. Norton had fixed both problems. Six weeks later, Dean was back to work not feeling any pain.
It's important to note, 50% of people who have peripheral artery disease show no symptoms.
"They do not have any indication that they have a disease until some complicated feature happens like a wound occurs on their leg or something on their heel or they have an event where they lose blood flow to their toe and then they receive urgent attention. So it is one of those silent things that creeps up on you. You don't really realize it until you got a bad problem,” said Dr. Norton.
Modifying risk factors makes a huge difference. Dr. Norton said to add exercise, increase vegetable and fruit intake, decrease fat in your diet to lose weight, and do not smoke.
Because this type of heart disease blocks vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs, it is the leading cause of amputations. In fact, on average 185,000 limbs have to be removed every year because of the disease.