CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Peripheral Artery Disease affects the circulation of blood flow for almost a quarter billion people worldwide.
It's a leading cause of heart attacks and amputations, and often goes underdiagnosed.
Patricia Hays almost lost her toe to PAD: Now she's warning others about the dangers.
"My toe was turning black," she said. "I knew it and I tried and tried to heal it."
Hays has a history of heart conditions, including stents in her heart, which she monitors.
But when she injured her toe at work, a trip to a podiatrist let her know something worse was going on. That's when she made appointment with her cardiologist.
"Mrs. Hays was referred to me for a non-healing toe ulcer, which despite wound care, was not getting enough blood flow so therefore it wasn't healing," said Corpus Christi Medical Center Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Christel Cuevas.
PAD is a common circulatory problem that affects 230 million people worldwide, Cuevas said. It happens when plaque builds up, narrows a persons arteries and reduces blood flow to outer extremities.
Hays is a diabetic, and was suffering from PAD. She was in need of urgent care, because, if left untreated, she was at risk of getting gangrene, necrosis or even worse — having her toe amputated.
Addressing PAD is typically an outpatient procedure, and it's done by using catheters and wires to open up any blockages.
Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
PAD is typically underdiagnosed and undertreated. Despite the happy outcome, Hays wishes she would have acted sooner, and warns to get checked out.
"It healed right up and I haven't had any problems with it since," she said. "It was well worth having done."
At 77 years old,Mrs. Hays continues to work as a greeter at a Walmart in Corpus Christi.
"Have yourself checked out, you don't have to go through all of that," she said. "If it happened again, I would be having it done again and wouldn't think twice about it."
In many cases those suffering with peripheral artery disease has mild or no symptoms.
Doctors say there are things to look for:
• Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities
• Leg numbness or weakness
• Coldness in your lower leg or foot, compared with the other side
• Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won't heal
• A change in the color of your legs• No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
• Pain when using your arms, such as aching and cramping
These are the most common symptoms to pay attention to. If you're over the age of 50, have a history of diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure or obesity, be sure to call your doctor and make an appointment to be screened for PAD.