Peripheral Artery Disease:
Know the Symptoms, Understand Your Risk, and Learn about Treatments
As many as 8 to 12 million Americans over the age of 50 may have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a slowing or stopping of normal blood flow to the legs caused by plaque build-up in the arteries. PAD affects both men and women, and increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
PAD often goes untreated because many people mistakenly think the symptoms are a normal part of aging. You may think it is arthritis or sciatica or just 'stiffness' from getting older. If you have diabetes, you might confuse PAD pain with a neuropathy - a common symptom of diabetes, described as a burning or painful discomfort in the feet or thighs.
Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
It is estimated that at least half of people who have PAD don't have any signs or symptoms of it. Other people may have several signs and symptoms, which include:
- Pain, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the leg muscles when walking or climbing stairs, or cramping in the affected leg, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. These symptoms may improve after rest.
- Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
- Sores or wounds on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
- A pale or bluish color to the skin
- A lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg
- Poor nail growth on the toes
- Decreased hair growth on the legsErectile dysfunction, especially among men with diabetes
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that even if you don't have any symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about if you should be checked for PAD if you are:
- 70 years of age or older
- 50 years of age or older, and have a history of smoking or diabetes
- Younger than 50 years of age, and have diabetes and one or more risk factors for atherosclerosis
What's Your Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease?
Individuals at highest risk include:
- People over age 50
- People who are overweight
- People who do not exercise
- People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or a family history of either
- People with heart disease or a family history of heart disease
- People who have had a stroke or a family history of stroke
Treatments for Peripheral Artery Disease
Treatment for PAD focuses on the reduction of symptoms and the prevention of further progression of the disease. In most cases, the following are typically enough to slow the progression or even reverse the symptoms of PAD:
- Lifestyle changes (including quitting smoking, exercising, eating a healthy diet)
- Disease management
- Medications that lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and/or plaque build-up
In extreme cases, surgery is required to remove blockages from arteries or to bypass a clogged area.
For more information on PAD treatment at Grand View, call 215-453-4314.
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Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
For more information on PAD, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
The information provided on this page is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a physician or other health-care provider.