For Patients

VEWS® enables doctors or nurses to carry out a simple, non-invasive test within 5 minutes for assessment of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD, reduced blood supply to the feet as arteries in the legs become narrow from build up of plaque which restricts flow of blood). PAD affects over 90 million people worldwide and is on the increase.

Only a quarter of people with PAD have any symptoms (leg pain from walking which is eased by rest). People with PAD face a 4 times greater risk of having a heart attack. People who experience symptoms of PAD have a 15 times greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, and a 1 in 4 chance of dying within 2 years. These conditions share a common risk: if you have a build up of plaque in your leg (peripheral) arteries, you are likely to have plaque build up in other arteries - such as those leading to the heart or the brain. If this plaque ruptures, it can cause clots to form, and these clots may cause a heart attack or stroke. With earlier diagnosis of PAD many of these complications are preventable.

Plaque

Arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside but, with age, they can become narrowed or blocked through a process called atherosclerosis, which means hardening of the arteries.

A sticky substance called plaque can build up in the walls of the arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue. As more plaque builds up, the arteries narrow and stiffen. Eventually, enough plaque builds up to reduce blood flow to the arteries in the leg. When this happens, the leg does not receive the oxygen it needs, leading to pain on exercising or walking. If you have PAD, it is very likely that you have similar blockages in other arteries around the heart or brain. This places you at a greater risk of limb loss and having a heart attack or stroke.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with PAD have no symptoms. The most common symptom is intermittent claudication (IC): discomfort or pain in your legs on walking which eases with rest. You may not feel any pain; instead there may be tightness, heaviness, cramping, or weakness in the leg. IC often occurs more quickly if you walk uphill or up a flight of stairs. Over time, you may begin to feel IC at shorter walking distances. Critical limb ischemia occurs when the legs do not get enough oxygen even when resting. With critical limb ischemia, you may experience continuous pain or discomfort in the feet or toes.

How can PAD be treated?

If detected early enough, PAD can be successfully treated. This may involve something as simple as changing your lifestyle or taking medication.

In more severe cases, or where the disease is more advanced, your doctor may recommend surgical or minimally invasive treatments. The choice of the treatment depends upon the pattern and extent of the blockages as well as other factors, such as your general health and the presence of other medical conditions.

Resources

What causes PAD?

As you get older, the risk of developing PAD increases. People older than 50 have an increased risk of developing the disease, and men are at greater risk than women. Other factors that increase the chances of developing the disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or triglycerides
  • High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in blood
  • Weighing over 30% more than your ideal weight

How can I prevent PAD?

Lifestyle changes that can help you manage your peripheral arterial disease include:

  • Managing diabetes by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels
  • Lowering high cholesterol
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating foods low in saturated fats and calories
  • Maintaining your ideal body weight
  • Exercising and walking regularly, for instance walking at least 30 minutes 3 times each week