eripheral artery disease (PAD — pronounced
P.A.D.) affects about 8. 5 million Americans
age 40 and older. It becomes more common as
we get older. People with PAD have a higher
risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack or
stroke. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated,
the better – but that can be a challenge because
many either don’t have symptoms, or think the
symptoms they’re having are something else entirely.
PAD is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries, those
carrying oxygen-rich blood to the legs, stomach, arms, and
head — most commonly in the arteries of the legs. PAD is
similar to coronary artery disease (CAD) in that both are
caused by atherosclerosis that narrows and blocks arteries
in various critical regions of the body.
PAD may be the first warning sign of
atherosclerosis throughout your arteries. The whole
circulatory system, including your heart and brain, are at risk
when arteries are blocked and narrowed. Fatty deposits also
increase the risk for vascular inflammation and blood clots
that can block the blood supply and cause tissue death.
PAD is dangerous because these blockages can restrict
circulation to the limbs, organs and brain. Without adequate
blood flow, vital organs, legs, arms and feet, and your
brain, suffer damage. Left untreated, the tissue can become
infected or die, a condition called gangrene, and in the worst
cases, may result in the need for amputation.
What are the symptoms of PAD?
It’s important to learn the facts about PAD. As with any
disease, the more you understand, the more likely you’ll
be able to help your healthcare professional make an early
diagnosis and start treatment. PAD has common symptoms,
but many people with PAD never have any symptoms at all
or mistake their symptoms for something else.
The most common symptom of peripheral artery
disease in the lower extremities is a painful muscle
cramping in the hips, thighs or calves when walking,
climbing stairs or exercising.
The pain of PAD often goes away when you stop
exercising, although this may take a few minutes. Working
muscles need more blood flow. Resting muscles can get
by with less.
If there’s a blood-flow blockage due to plaque buildup,
the muscles won’t get enough blood during exercise to
meet the needs. The “crampy” pain (called “intermittent
PERIPHERAL ARTERY DISEASE