What are the typical symptoms of peripheral artery disease?
The most common reason that people visit the doctor for PAD testing is leg pain while walking. Many patients report aching, tingling, or cramping pain when they move around or exercise, which may occur in the hip, thigh, calves, or even the feet or buttocks.
That said, up to 40% of people with PAD don’t experience any leg pain. An even higher number may have no symptoms at all. If you have a relative with PAD, are a smoker, have heart disease or diabetes, or are over 60, you should have a PAD screening test.
Other warning signs to watch for include:
- Coldness in the feet or legs
- Slow-healing wounds or infections
- Pale, bluish, or discolored feet
- Numb toes
- Weakness in the leg muscles (known as muscle atrophy)
- Hair loss or smooth, shiny skin on the legs
What is the most common cause of PAD?
PAD is caused by a buildup of fatty deposits, or plaques, inside your arteries. These cholesterol-heavy plaques restrict blood flow from your heart to your legs, leading to pain, weakness, and difficulty walking, among other complications. But what causes these deposits to develop in the first place?
Many cases begin with lifestyle. Current and former smokers are at very high risk for developing PAD—in fact, regular smokers are 4 times more likely to develop it than lifetime non-smokers. A lack of exercise and diet high in cholesterol can also lead to narrowed arteries in the legs.
The disease can also be hereditary. If someone in your family was diagnosed with PAD, you need to tell your doctor and start a screening plan to monitor your health.