A lack of symptoms may be giving you a false sense of security about your health. In reality, there are several serious health conditions that can be asymptomatic, meaning your body doesn’t give you signals that something is wrong.
When it comes to peripheral arterial disease, for example, some patients feel pain or numbness in their legs. Other possible symptoms include dark or blue-tinged skin on the legs, and, for men, erectile dysfunction. Other patients notice none of these symptoms at all.
A real health risk
According to researcher Jeffrey S. Berger, M.D., of New York University School of Medicine, patients who have peripheral arterial disease are more than three times as likely to have issues in their carotid artery, which can lead to stroke and ultimately brain damage.
Berger’s study, published in Atherosclerosis, a leading journal on arterial and vascular disease, was based on an anonymous review of 3.6 million Life Line Screening cases. While some patients were aware of a peripheral arterial disease diagnosis, others were not. Regardless, the majority was shown to have carotid artery stenosis, or more simply, constricted blood vessels leading to the brain.
“We’re pleased that we were able to contribute to such important work while maintaining patient confidentiality,” said Andrew Manganaro, chief medical officer of Life Line Screening. “It is the kind of research that heightens awareness of a critical medical issue.”
Screening for awareness
In fact, awareness was a major theme of the study. Berger concluded that patients who have received treatment and believe they are cured, or patients with no symptoms, may be at higher risk because they are not be adhering to appropriate lifestyle and medication therapies.
If you are exhibiting common symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, a simple, non-invasive screening can help gauge your arterial health. Symptoms include pain during exercise that is relieved during rest, cold legs, poor wound healing and constant leg pain, tingling, burning or loss of sensation.
Patients who have no symptoms but are at high risk for the disease should also consider an evaluation. Risk factors include family history, increasing age, smoking, high cholesterol, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity.
The peripheral arterial disease screening procedure, available through Life Line Screening, is done using the ankle-brachial index. After removing your socks and shoes, you will have pressure cuffs placed around your upper arms and ankles. A small ultrasound device will then measure the systolic blood pressure in your limbs.
In addition, a simple finger-stick measures three different kinds of lipids in the blood (HDL, LDL and triglycerides) as well as total cholesterol, which help determine arterial disease risk, and ultimately the risk of trouble with the carotid artery.
To learn more about screenings that can help identify your health risk for potentially asymptomatic diseases, visit www.lifelinescreening.com