People with diabetes face special health challenges, including an increased risk for cardiovascular conditions such as diabetic arterial or diabetic vascular disease.
At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, our vascular surgeons are experts in treating diabetic arterial disease and its complications.
People with diabetes are at much greater risk for heart and vascular disease compared to people who do not have diabetes.
Conditions associated with diabetic arterial disease include:
People with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood. This may change blood chemistry and cause blood vessels to narrow. Or, it can damage blood vessels — a process known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is also called hardening of the arteries. It results when plaque — which is made up of cholesterol and other fats, calcium, and fibrous tissue — builds up in the walls of arteries.
If enough plaque builds up to narrow or block an artery for a prolonged period, it can cause damage to tissue and organs. The health problems that result depend on the location of any narrowing or blockage.
Factors that can increase your risk for diabetic vascular disease include:
These factors can also worsen diabetic arterial disease that already exists.
People with diabetes are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or experience kidney disease.
Diabetic arterial disease typically affects smaller arteries — including those that lead to the eyes, kidneys, fingers, feet, and toes — causing nerve and circulation problems. This combination can create a number of health issues, such as loss of feeling in the feet.
Because many people with diabetes develop nerve problems, they may not notice that their feet are injured, which can lead to:
People with diabetic arterial disease can experience symptoms such as:
Tests your doctor at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute may use to diagnose diabetic arterial disease of the legs include:
Treatments for diabetic arterial disease focus on helping you control your blood sugar and the risk factors that contribute to the disease. These include lifestyle changes and medication, if necessary.
If your vascular surgeon at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute discovers a narrowed or blocked artery, he or she may also recommend a minimally invasive or surgical procedure to clear any blockage or open the artery.
Lifestyle changes that can control the factors for diabetic arterial disease include:
Your doctor may prescribe medications to control:
When diabetic arterial disease causes severe foot or calf pain, or when wounds develop on feet, your UPMC vascular surgeon may recommend minimally invasive interventions or surgery to restore circulation to your legs.
UPMC's vascular surgeons are experts in assessing and treating diabetic foot wounds.
We offer a range of treatments, including: