LAYTON -- Older than 50 and have leg pains? A Davis County clinic is working to fix that.
Last month Dr. Guarav Aggarwala opened AchyLegs Circulatory Health Specialists within the Utah Cardiology Clinics in Layton and Bountiful.
"What we've done is create the AchyLegs program in order to raise awareness in the community about pain from poor circulation in the legs," Aggarwala, an interventional cardiologist, said.
Along with raising awareness, Aggarwala's goal is to treat peripheral artery disease, which the clinic describes as like having a continuous heart attack in the legs.
The disease occurs when arteries in the body become clogged or narrowed with plaque. In the upper body, the disease leads to heart attacks and strokes, but in the legs the disease can lead to pain and even amputation.
In the United States, Aggarwala said, about 30 percent of the population 50 years of age and older have the disease, which is between 12 million and 15 million people.
"It's actually pretty huge," Aggarwala said.
A vein specialist referred Centerville resident Joyce B. Robinson to Aggarwala about a year and a half ago.
The 80-year-old suffered from leg pain that gradually got worse over several years.
"I couldn't walk very far," Robinson said. "I couldn't walk more than half a block."
Finally, a planned trip to Las Vegas inspired Robinson to go to the doctor: She wanted to be able to walk from casino to casino.
After the treatment, she was back on her feet almost immediately.
"I had to take it easy the first day, but after that I was able to walk around just fine," Robinson said. "And after that initial week it improves every day."
When patients come in with symptoms such as Robinson's, Aggarwala said, it is actually a warning sign that there is something wrong with their body.
"The reason to be super aggressive in treating P.A.D. is to prevent heart attacks or strokes," Aggarwala said.
Amputations occur because the plaque limits blood flow to the legs and even a small cut can lead to infections that the body can not heal. Once a patient gets a leg amputated below the knee, Aggarwala said, they then have a five year mortality expectation.
The AchyLegs program hopes to stop that.
After a patient is diagnosed, the specialists conduct an angiogram to find the blockage. Using a variety of instruments, the doctors bore through the plaque to restore blood flow.
Eliminating leg pain also has further benefits to a patient's health. If patients are no longer in pain, simple tasks such as walking become easier, which will allow them to get more exercise to get their heart pumping.
"Unfortunately some people are unable to walk because they have such pain in their legs," Aggarwala said. "If you give them the ability to walk, you return their lifestyles and independence."
Generally, there are five causes that lead to clogged arteries including high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and family history.
Smoking itself is an accelerant to the disease, Aggarwala said.
However, once they have the disease, people tend to ignore the symptoms. By the time they come to Aggarwala, patients have ailments such as ulcers in their legs.
"That's the paradigm in thinking that we need to change," Aggarwala said.
Robinson, who works in a hospital, said she tried to ignore the pain and even tried to self-diagnose her problems before she finally went to the doctor.
"We think we can handle anything and we just need to put it out of mind and it will take care of itself and the problem is it doesn't," Robinson said.
She said when people try to self diagnose, nine times out of 10 they are wrong. It is better to get checked out, especially when the problem is cardiovascular.
"Clogged arteries are nothing to mess with," Robinson said.
Aggarwala said he is happy to see his patients walk again without pain.
"The amount of satisfaction you get from saving someone's limbs is just satisfying like crazy," Aggarwala said.