Peripheral Artery Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention Tips


Peripheral artery disease is a common condition in which there is a narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. It is primarily caused by atherosclerosis – the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. Although Plano peripheral artery disease can occur in any blood vessel, it mainly affects your legs or lower extremities. Because of the narrowing or blockage in the blood vessels, the legs and arms don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of peripheral artery disease.

Symptoms of peripheral artery disease

Pain in the legs while walking or with other physical activity is the classic symptom of peripheral artery disease. However, up to four in ten people with PAD have no leg pain when walking (claudication). Claudication symptoms include muscle cramping or pain in the legs or arms that begin with physical activity and ends with rest. The pain is most commonly felt on the calf but can also affect your buttocks, hips, and thighs. Patients with severe pain find walking and engaging in other types of physical activities difficult.

Patients with peripheral artery disease may also experience other symptoms that include

  • Numbness or weakness in the leg
  • Coldness in the affected lower leg or foot
  • Shiny skin on the legs
  • Skin discoloration or color changes in the legs
  • Slower growth of toenails
  • Non-healing sores on the legs, feet, and toes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss or slow growth of hair on legs

Patients may experience pain even when resting or lying down as the disease worsens. Walking or hanging the legs over the edge of the bed may temporarily alleviate the pain.

What causes peripheral artery disease?

The main cause of peripheral artery disease is a buildup of fatty, cholesterol-containing deposits on artery walls (atherosclerosis). The fatty deposits narrow or block the arteries, reducing blood supply to the limbs and causing peripheral artery disease. Although atherosclerosis is the main cause of PAD, this disease may other times be due to the:

  • Inflammation of blood vessels
  •  Exposure to radiation
  •  Injury to the arms or legs
  • Changes in the ligaments or muscles

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease

Your risk of developing peripheral artery disease is higher if you smoke or have diabetes. Other factors that elevate your risk of this condition include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and a family history of peripheral artery disease. Your chances of developing PAD also increase as you advance in age, especially after 65 or after 50 if you have risk factors for atherosclerosis.

Peripheral artery disease affects both men and women, but African Americans and Hispanics have slightly higher rates of PAD than other races.

Tips to prevent peripheral artery disease

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent peripheral artery disease and other health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Living a healthy lifestyle means:

  • Do not smoke
  • Eat healthy foods that are low in saturated fats
  • Exercise regularly. Check with your provider to know the type and how much exercise is best for you.
  • Control your blood sugar
  • Stay within a healthy weight
  • Manage cholesterol and blood pressure

If you are at risk of peripheral artery disease, talk to your Prime Heart and Vascular doctor about ways to lower your risk of the condition.

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