Peripheral Artery Disease – What you should look out for

What To Look Out For

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is primarily caused by a buildup of fatty deposits inside the arteries, specifically in the legs and/or feet. PAD causes the blood vessels to narrow, and in effect restricts blood flow to the affected areas.

In the United States, an estimated 8.5 million people have peripheral artery disease, affecting roughly 12-20 percent of Americans over the age of 60. PAD is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke; and is also more common in smokers.

Common signs that may indicate the onset of Peripheral Artery Disease is pain in your calves when walking or exercising, which subsides with rest, generally known as “claudication”. Other signs include numbness, tingling, or a pins and needles feeling in your lower legs or feet and cuts or sores on your legs or feet that heal slowly or don’t heal at all. Symptoms of PAD can be so subtle that you may brush it off as fatigue, ageing, or even just a sign of neuropathy! Early treatment is essential to protecting your vascular system, so it is important to listen to your body and take potential symptoms of PAD seriously.

Causes of peripheral artery disease:

Atherosclerosis is known to be the most common cause of Peripheral artery disease. It is the gradual build up of fatty materials inside the arteries. Other causes of PAD which are still common are blood clots in the arteries, injuries to your arms or legs, and unusual anatomy of the muscles and ligaments. People with a history of diabetes, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, older age, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease, and excess levels of C-reactive protein or homocysteine are the greatest at risk of developing this disease.

Symptoms of peripheral artery disease

PAD is known to go undetected as half of all people with the disease do not have any symptoms. However, possible symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease include:

  • Claudication– the hip, thigh or calf muscles may feel pain during physical activity or simply walking.
  • Weakness in one or both legs.
  • Coldness felt in the foot or the lower part of the leg.
  • Numbness in the legs.
  • Brittle toenails which tend to grow quite slowly.
  • Ulcers or sores on the feet and legs that don’t heal or take a long time to heal.
  • Skin on the legs which have turned bluish, shiny or pale.
  • Hair-loss on the legs and feet.
  • Erectile dysfunction (impotence in men)

Unknowingly living with Peripheral Artery Disease can be dangerous and painful. If PAD goes undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to many outcomes, including amputation of a leg, increased risk of coronary artery disease, and carotid atherosclerosis (a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the brain). As people with PAD have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, the American Heart Association (AHA) encourages people at risk  and those who have been experiencing similar symptoms to discuss PAD with their doctors to establish an early diagnosis and treatment plan.

Could you have PAD? Take our quiz to find out! Follow this link