Know the Warning Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

One of the Deadliest Diseases You’ve Never Heard Of

More than 8 million Americans suffer from peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. Just as a heart attack is caused by a blocked artery in the heart, PAD is the same kind of blockage – only it takes place in the arm, leg or other part of the body.

PAD is a leading cause for amputation, and puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke and death. It can build up over a lifetime, and the symptoms may not become obvious until later in life.

The first noticeable symptom of PAD may be a painful cramping in the calf, thigh or buttocks that occurs regularly when you walk or move, but that goes away when you’re at rest. This is called intermittent claudication. The pain can be severe enough to limit your ability to participate in activities you enjoy, such as golfing or chasing after grandchildren.

Other symptoms of advanced PAD include:

  • Burning or aching pain in the feet and toes while resting (especially at night while lying flat)
  • Cool skin in the feet
  • Redness or color changes in the skin
  • Toe and foot sores that do not heal.

But fully half of people who have PAD experience no symptoms at all. That’s one of the reasons it’s so dangerous.

What are the risk factors for PAD?

An individual is at risk for developing PAD when one or more of these risk factors are present:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Age: In the United States, people aged 50 and older have an increased risk for PAD
  • Race: African Americans have a two-fold higher risk of developing PAD compared to other groups
  • History of heart or blood vessel disease: A personal or family history of heart or blood vessel disease may be an indicator for PAD
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2019.

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