AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Peripheral arterial disease is a common disease causing reduced blood flow to legs. Doctors in the area are looking into why the disease occurs more often in certain populations. 

Peripheral arterial disease- or PAD- occurs when vessels are blocked and can’t carry blood from the heart to the legs.

“It makes it difficult to walk,” says Dr. Monique Bethel, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “And, in the most extreme cases, because of the lack of blood flow, legs sometimes have to get amputated.”

Doctors say, poor social determinants of health- like food and housing insecurity, or inability to access education- and PAD both disproportionately affect older Black adults.

Dr. Monique Bethel and her colleague Dr. Vishal Arora are at Augusta University Health’s Medical Center, studying both conditions to see how they might negatively affect the diagnosis and treatment of PAD in the Black community.

“African-Americans are diagnosed later on in the course of the disease, so they are more likely to have things like amputations or bad outcomes from it,” says Bethel. “And even once they’re diagnosed, they often don’t receive the appropriate treatment.”

Dr. Bethel screens patients for both blood pressure of the arm and at the ankles- the latter of which isn’t standard routine for most doctor visits. 

She hopes to create a standard of catching PAD earlier.

“The classic symptom of PAD is pain or cramping In your legs when you walk,” says Bethel. “However, again, what we found out through time is that some patients don’t have those classic symptoms. They kind of have more vague symptoms, or their legs get tired when they walk.”

Her goal is simple: to improve patient outcomes.

One patient remains grateful for his treatment of the disease after being diagnosed in 2020.

“I think it’s important- early intervention certainly is important,” says patient Eddie Banks. “…results in a good outcome or a better-than-expected outcome. So, I’m certainly in favor of that.”

“Hopefully we can make a big impact,” says Dr. Bethel.

For more information on PAD or how you can be screened, click here