Last month I wrote about a sudden infection in my lower leg that gave me quite a scare. My purpose in sharing that was to motivate readers with ongoing pressure sore problems to do everything they can to heal them quickly and completely — because you never know when an infection can strike, get out of hand and threaten your life.
Most of us are familiar with pressure sores. Many of us have been dealing with problem areas on our feet for years. We get so used to staring at these hard-to-heal wounds that we fail to see the possibility of an underlying cause: peripheral artery disease.
PAD is to our legs what coronary artery disease, or CAD, is to our hearts. Both tell us we have narrowing or blockages in arteries due to plaque build-up on arterial walls. Those of us with SCI are more likely to acquire CAD — as we age — with greater frequency than the nondisabled population. The same is true of PAD. But since most of us have no sensation in our legs, we can’t feel it. Nondisabled people with PAD feel pain because of it; our biggest tipoff is a pressure sore that won’t heal or that returns again and again. PAD causes diminished blood flow that makes healing very difficult.
We take CAD seriously because it is a common killer. With PAD, since there is no pain, no sickness, just the ongoing routine of changing dressings, we tend to accept it unwittingly. We don’t even know it is there. It develops slowly, over decades, silently, invisibly.
PAD is a very dangerous complication that gets little attention from most primary care physicians. Serious lower extremity infections that ca