The first sign of trouble Steve Hamburger of Westlake Village, CA noticed was pain in his legs as he tried to sleep. He later found out he had peripheral artery disease (WAY).
Fortunately, his family already knew about PAD – and what it would mean for them.
“I’m very happy to have a family with a medical / athletic background,” says Hamburger. “My wife spent her career in the medical field as a manager of radiology and my older son spent a number of years doing an EMT,” says Hamburger. “When I was first diagnosed, my wife understood how PAD could eventually lead to me being in a wheelchair” as his PAD worsened to the point that it was necessary amputation. He recognizes his wife’s support as an important factor in his lifestyle changes to help with his PAD.
But if you do not have that kind of support, you will need to help your loved ones understand the condition and its impact. Here’s how.
‘A heart attack of the legs’
Although common, many people have not yet heard of PAD, which can make it difficult for those with the disease to explain.
PAD is best compared to a “heart attack of the legs,” says Kym McNicholas, founder of the PAD nonprofit organization, The Way To My Heart in California. McNichols, who does not have a PAD himself, says it feels like putting on a tourniquet every day around your legs.
PAD affects the circulation of the lower legs as plaque builds up to a point where blood flow is narrowed or cut off. Symptoms can include pain in your legs, cramps and numbness. You can get stomach ulcers on your feet or toes that will not heal due to a lack of blood flow that contains key nutrients, including oxygen to help nourish tissue.
When you walk, you start to feel in your calf for a while, McNicholas says. “The lake [you] walking, turns the jerk into cramp, which [you] can also feel in [your] thighs and buttocks, ”says McNicholas. If you keep walking, you can finally feel what looks like the worst “charley perd”What you’ve ever had, she says.
“Please be patient with me”
Ache of PAD can be serious. It can also affect your mood. Mentally and emotionally, having a chronic illness can be exhausting.
McNicholas recommends telling loved ones: “Please be patient with me and understand when I look depressed or upset. It probably has nothing to do with you and is only inherent in this disease process. ”
Having people who support you and understand the disease and its treatment can make a huge difference in quality of life for someone with PAD.
Set healthy boundaries
It can help to let people know how you feel about certain questions and activities – what you are comfortable or not comfortable talking about or doing.
“Patients have the right to decide what they want to share about their condition and with whom they want to share it,” says Georgia psychotherapist Samuel Jones, LCSW. “In addition, it is essential to be aware of your limitations and to prioritize how you spend your energy and time building a satisfying life while living with a chronic condition.”
Boundaries can help you emotionally and also let people know what you can or cannot physically do. Take a step, for example. It significantly improves blood flow to the legs, which helps relieve pain from PAD. But you may not be able to walk as far as someone without a PAD. So it’s important for loved ones to understand these limitations, says Ohio cardiologist John Phillips, MD, creator of the Save My Piggies podcast, which is dedicated to people with PAD. (“Save my piggies” is a reference to avoid amputation.)
“When there are family gatherings or outings, patients sometimes need more time to find places and this can slow down the group,” says Philips. “If the patient has a walking partner, they are more likely to walk on a regular basis, and I have found that a loved one can be a very good walking partner for these individuals.”
What to look for
Family and friends of people with PAD take on the important role of types of caretakers. Checking the person and seeing if their activity level has changed is the key to helping your loved one live with PAD. Phillips recommends looking out for changes in exercise, walking habits and mood.
“Patients whose PAD gets worse often become less active and in some cases immobile. It can eventually lead to wounds that do not heal, aggravate obesity, and … depression, ”says Phillips. “Family members and friends should be on the lookout for significant changes in activity levels, and look after their PAD loved ones on a weekly basis.”
Showing support goes a long way for those diagnosed with PAD. Going to doctor’s appointments and getting involved in the treatment process are simple ways to show your love and support.
“Instead of focusing on what I can not do, it helps me find things I can do and even what we can do together,” says McNicholas.
Hamburger was able to lead a healthy life despite PAD. By establishing a balanced exercise plan and to take the right medication to avoid surgery, he is comfortable with his lifestyle.
“Loved ones can help strengthen an exercise program, and one’s maintain a proper diet,” says Hamburger. “As well as aggravating the PAD, ensure you are in good vascular medical hands and avoid amputation by all physical and medical means.”