Smokers warned of amputation risk as a million could be living with deadly vascular disease

24 February 2016        

Category: Research

cigarettes in an ashtray

A million people in the UK could be living with a serious vascular condition that can lead to leg amputation or a fatal heart attack, experts predict.

Undiagnosed sufferers

There are nearly half a million registered patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in the UK however a leading surgeon has today estimated that this figure could be twice as high.

The condition is a silent and largely unknown killer in the UK with nine in ten sufferers currently smoking or having done so in the past. Approximately half of all sufferers show no symptoms until they suffer a heart attack or stroke.

What causes PAD?

The condition is caused by build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the leg arteries which restricts blood supply to leg muscles. This is called atherosclerosis and can be caused by inhaling dangerous chemicals found in tobacco.

People suffering from PAD also have a much higher risk of developing other serious forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), like heart attack and stroke.

BHF Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, said: “Peripheral arterial disease can lead to horrific consequences and the silent nature of the condition means that opportunities to diagnose and treat it are often missed. 

“We do know that stopping smoking is the single most effective way of reducing your risk of developing this potentially deadly disease and with No Smoking Day on March 9, now is a great time to prepare to start your quitting journey.” 

Our research 

BHF-funded researcher, Mr Bijan Modarai, at King’s College London/St Thomas’ Hospital is investigating a technique to accurately determine whether an affected a limb affected by PAD can be saved through surgery. 

The new scanning technique will help show the effectiveness of treatment and indicate whether further surgery is required. This will minimise the number of people having to undergo life changing surgery or amputation. 

Want to quit? 

Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health and can dramatically reduce your risk of conditions like PAD. Join thousands of other smokers and make a quit attempt this No Smoking Day, Wednesday March 9th.