San Antonio - There are nearly 2 million people in the U.S. living with limb loss, and that number is expected to double due to growing rates of diabetes and vascular disease.
According to the latest statistics from Amputee Coalition, more than 14,000 amputations occur in Texas a year, and the majority of those numbers occur on San Antonio's South Side.
Peripheral Artery Disease
It's called a silent disease that many are still are not educated about: peripheral artery disease or PAD.
It is a vascular problem that affects blood circulation in a person's limbs, especially the feet and legs.
PAD can be the result of other diseases, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and high cholesterol. Smoking and a sedentary lifestyle are also risk factors.
The disease has mild or no symptoms, but early signs of it can be leg pain when walking or ulcers developing on a person's foot.
If PAD is left untreated, the chances of an amputation increase and the patient may even die.
In fact, nearly half of the individuals who have an amputation due to vascular disease will die within five years.
According to the Amputee Coalition, this five-year mortality rate is higher than rates for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
PAD in San Antonio
Doctors in San Antonio have noticed the devastating trends and are trying to curb the problem.
On the city's South Side, vascular surgeon Dr. Lyssa Ochoa, podiatrist Dr. Chris Ford and Southwest General Hospital have teamed up to help educate the community.
Doctors are concerned about the South Side because of the amount of people with diabetes who live there, the lack of education and the lack of transportation to and from doctor visits.
"Here on the South Side of San Antonio what we see is a lot of patients with diabetes, and the prevalence of diabetes in San Antonio is two to three times more than in other large cities in the nation," Ochoa said.
Those who have diabetes are more at risk to get PAD, but they often can't feel the pain because of neuropathy, or nerve damage.
"When you look at statistics, diabetes in the foot wound process is heavier in the Hispanic population," Dr. Ford said.
PAD can be treated and prevented by simply eating a healthy diet and exercising, and diabetics can check their feet for ulcers.
"It doesn't just take a team of doctors, it takes the team and the community to make a difference," Ochoa said.
A limb salvage program will open at Southwest General Hospital on Sept. 20. to help patients in the area.
"What the program is aimed to do is get patients that are not having blood flow or having exacerbation of their disease process straight to the lab so they could have an opening of flow to the limbs, and they can have limb salvage essentially," Gina Acosta, director of Business and Physician Operation at Southwest General Hospital, said.
Ochoa's clinic, the SAVE clinic, is also available on the South Side. There she does a variety of different outpatient procedures to relieve PAD and blood-flow problems.
"Health care outcomes on the South Side of San Antonio are very different than the North Side," Ochoa said. "I realized we have to tackle this problem in a different way."
All of this in hope of saving limbs and lives.
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