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PAD: What you don’t know could hurt you — badly

September 2, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - The response was so strong that Jane Palmer is already planning to schedule another screening at the Marquette Senior Center.

The peripheral arterial disease screening Palmer scheduled in late August filled up immediately.

"The screening filled up so quickly that the people doing it agreed to set up a second session on the same day," Palmer said. "So I am going to see if they will come back in October or November for another screening."

Article Photos

The screening process for PAD is seen. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

Peripheral arterial disease, commonly referred to as PAD, affects many people over the age of 50. Many do not realize they have the condition as up to 75 percent of those with PAD exhibit no symptoms.

PAD occurs when plaque buildup arrows the arteries, often reducing or even blocking the flow of blood. If untreated, PAD can lead to reduced mobility and can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, leg amputation and even death, according to material provided by the PAD Coalition.

"PAD can affect all the arteries in the legs," said Tom McLain of ev3, the company that was doing the free screening along with Biomedix and Bell Hospital. "It can be serious. I can be anybody who gets it. What a heart attack is to your heart, PAD is to your legs.

Fact Box

All about PAD

One in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has peripheral arterial disease. It's a condition that raises the risk for heart attack and stroke. PAD occurs when extra cholesterol and fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the limbs. This buildup narrows the arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood.

PAD is most commonly seen in the legs. PAD affects as many as 12 million people in the United States. It's estimated that nearly 75 percent of those with PAD do not experience symptoms.

The risk factors include:

Over the age 50.

Smoke or used to smoke


High blood pressure

High cholesterol

History of vascular disease, heart attack or stroke

African-American or Hispanic

Source: PAD Coalition.

"Genetics, smoking and diabetes all play a big factor," McLain said. "There are estimates that there are 12 million Americans who have it and a large amount are undiagnosed.

"Statistics show that the mortality rate for PAD is higher than for breast cancer," he said. "And so many people are unaware of PAD."

While many people have no symptoms, there are some signs to watch for, McLain said.

"Pain in the legs when walking is one sign," he said. "Nighttime leg aches is another. Wounds on the feet that do not heal would be another."

The screening offered at the senior center was a way to spread the word about PAD.

"This is a community event to increase awareness," McLain said. "We will let people know about their reading and encourage them to go back and talk to their physician if they show any signs of the disease."

The screening takes just 15 or 20 minutes for most people, he said.

For Janet and Ken Vickstrom of Marquette, the screening was just precautionary.

"We don't have symptoms," Janet Vickstrom said. "I had the screening once before, in June 2009, and it's simple."

Ken Vickstrom added: "We have no history but it's a good idea to have it checked."

Doing the testing was Aaron Berg of Biomedix and Tim Negri of Bell Hospital. They worked as a team on each of the Vickstroms, placing blood pressure cuffs on both arms and legs and asking them a few health-related questions while reviewing the questionnaire each had completed.

"We want to create awareness for patients," Negri said. "We find that some have been having symptoms for a long, long time. We can catch the disease much earlier in the process with this kind of screening."

Janet Vickstrom, a cancer survivor, was happy to have the testing completed and to hear she wasn't exhibiting any signs of PAD.

"I thought it was marvelous when I first heard about the screening," she said. "It's wonderful this was available at the senior center."

For more information about PAD, visit

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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