Most people are aware that atherosclerosis can cause blockages in the coronary arteries, resulting in chest pain or heart attack, or in the carotid arteries, precipitating a stroke. But atherosclerosis can lead to another serious but often under-diagnosed condition: peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Defined as atherosclerotic obstruction of the arteries to the lower extremities, PAD causes leg pain and is associated with other cardiovascular disease. Although lower extremity PAD affects an estimated 12 to 20 million people in the United States, only four to five million of them are experiencing symptoms.
A 34-year-old male presented to a family medicine physician for chronic low back pain. The physician is comfortable prescribing opioids and has many patients on scheduled drugs. The patient has had chronic pain for many years and has undergone multiple treatments including physical therapy, steroid injections and many medications. On presentation, the patient was on Robaxin and oxycodone (four times a day). His past history is positive for hypertension and alcohol abuse, although he stated he hasn’t drank in the past year. He works as a laborer.
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