PAD stands for peripheral artery disease, and 9.8 million Americans over age 40 have it. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis or plaque (fats and cholesterol) building up which reduces the flow of blood in your peripheral arteries. These are the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to other parts of the body. The most common type of peripheral artery disease reduces blood flow to your lower extremities like the legs and feet. There are 9 warning signs of PAD to know.
Not Everyone Has Symptoms
One in five patients with PAD have virtually no symptoms. Regardless of symptoms, everyone with PAD has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as the disease progresses.
Without a diagnosis and treatment, you are at risk for a serious heart attack or stroke.
Some Early Signs of PAD
One of the earliest signs that you are suffering from PAD is pain and cramps in your legs. This will occur with simple things like walking, exercising, or climbing stairs. The pain then diminishes with rest. This is known as claudication, and it happens because your leg muscles are not getting enough oxygenated blood.
Additional Signs of PAD
Additional signs of PAD include the following:
- Feet may become discolored: blue or pale
- Toenails and leg hair may stop growing
- One foot feels colder than the other
- Weakness or numbness in the legs making you feel off balance
- Pins and needles in feet or legs
- You may develop sores and infections on your feet or legs that do not heal.
- With severe PAD you will still have pain in your legs when at rest.
If left untreated, severe PAD may necessitate your foot or leg being amputated from dead tissue and gangrene.
Risk Factors for Peripheral Artery Disease
There are three main risk factors for PAD. If you are experiencing the very first early sign, making some immediate changes can help.
- Stop Smoking! This increases your risk by 400%.
- Next, get off the sofa and do some regular exercise. Walking alone can help.
- Change your diet and avoid all fried and fatty foods.
There are many other risk factors for PAD which is a long-term disease, but you can manage or even reverse some of the symptoms by making some changes in your life.