• Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)




    Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease that not only affects not only how well you live but also how long you may live. You may find that that you can’t walk as far or for as long as you used to—and that’s frustrating—but if you have PAD, you are also at greater risk for having a heart attack and stroke. And yet as serious as PAD is, many people have never heard of it and don’t know how important it is to get help if you have it. For a good overview of PAD—its causes, symptoms, and treatment—download “Five Things You Need to Know about PAD.”  

    More than 10 million people in the United States have PAD, sometimes called peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or poor circulation. You are at risk for PAD if 

    1.  you have leg pain
    2.  smoke or have a history of smoking
    3.  are over 70
    4.  are over 50 and diabetic
    5.  are over 50 and smoke or have a history of smoking.

    Talk about your symptoms with your doctor. Download “Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Peripheral Artery Disease” and take it with you to your next appointment.

    You’ll also find a more detailed explanation of these topics in each of the following sections on this site:

    • Symptoms. Some people have symptoms of PAD, but many do not. Don’t assume that that your legs hurt because you’re getting older or have arthritis. Learn which symptoms signal PAD and then keep track of them using the SecondCount Symptoms Log. This log will help you report your symptoms to your doctor. Learn more...
    • Causes. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, which is also known as “hardening of the arteries.” It is the same disease process that causes heart attacks and stroke. Learn more…
    • Diagnosis—Your doctor may consider many factors before diagnosing PAD: medical history, physical exam, results from a simple and painless test called the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), and other tests that help to pinpoint the location of blockages, such as the Duplex Ultrasound Test, Computerized Tomographic Arteriography (CTA), and Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA). Learn more…
    • Treatment. You can work with your doctors to develop a treatment plan that will reduce the pain and risk of disability associated with PAD and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Learn more… 
    • Lifestyle Changes. Smoking is the #1 risk factor for PAD.  Quitting smoking and making other changes in your life, such as eating a heart healthy diet, taking your medication for diabetes and high blood pressure, and exercising on a regular basis, may reduce your risk of developing PAD in the first place. If you already have PAD, these same changes can help you feel better and do more despite the disease. Learn more…
    • Resources and Support. If you have PAD, you are not alone. Help is available in many forms including online discussion groups, tools to guide and track your treatment progress, and programs within your own community. Learn more…

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    Dr. Sahil A. Parikh explains what PAD can tell you about your heart.

    Don’t feel like you should wait until your symptoms become unbearable. PAD is treatable. You can do a lot to feel better and reduce the risk of amputation. Early diagnosis of PAD can also save your life or the life of loved one by signaling your increased risk for heart attacks and stroke.

    Both Milton Unick and Ron Robinson had severe leg pain before their heart attacks but did not know they had PAD. But fortunately for these men, their heart attacks led to diagnosis followed by treatment with angioplasty and stents. They went on to enjoy life feeling better than they did before their heart attacks.

    If you have symptoms of PAD - don’t wait - ask your doctor if you are at risk and what you can do about it. You may be surprised to learn that you can feel better soon, even if you’ve been in pain for many years.

  • More About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)

    A simple test, called the ankle-brachial index, or ABI, can quickly and painlessly determine if you likely have peripheral artery disease (PAD), which means blockages in the blood vessels leading to your legs. PAD, also referred to as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), can cause discomfort or weakness while walking and, if severe and left untreated, can potentially lead to amputation of the leg or foot.

    Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

    What’s Happening in Your Body PAD is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits, or plaque (called atherosclerosis), inside the arteries that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. When arteries become partly or completely blocked with plaque, the flow of blood is restricted, which interferes with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that your muscles and organs need to work properly. When you walk, climb stairs, play tennis, or are physically active in any way, your muscles and organs require even more blood that usual. When the muscle can’t get more blood due to the blockage of the arteries from PAD, the muscles are in pain.

    Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    To diagnose peripheral artery disease - blockages in the arteries leading to your legs, feet, or arms - your physician may ask you about your medical history, if you have a history of heart disease in your family, and questions that can determine if your lifestyle increases your risk. He or she will also ask about your symptoms, such as pain or heaviness in your legs muscles during exercise. If your doctor suspects you have PAD, he or she will recommend tests to verify the diagnosis.

    Five Things You Need to Know About Peripheral Artery Disease

    More than 10 million Americans suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), and yet many people don't know what it is or how to treat it. If left untreated, the disease that causes PAD (atherosclerosis) can cause serious and even life-threatening complications, including gangrene, heart attack, and stroke.

    Lifestyle Changes for Peripheral Artery Disease

    Treat Your Body Well—It Has to Last a Lifetime! You are the most important player in the treatment of PAD. Even if you don’t have PAD, lifestyle changes can also significantly reduce your risk of developing PAD in the first place and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke at the same time.

    Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

    Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease that not only affects not only how well you live but also how long you may live. You may find that that you can’t walk as far or for as long as you used to—and that’s frustrating—but if you have PAD, you are also at greater risk for having a heart attack and stroke.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Peripheral Artery Disease

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your individual risk of having peripheral artery disease (PAD). Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    Resources for Peripheral Artery Disease

    For more information on peripheral artery disease (PAD), SecondsCount.org has a list of related websites you should be aware of.

    SecondsCount PAD Check: Are You at Risk?

    Follow this simple, easy-to-read flowchart to see if you are at risk for Peripheral Artery Disease.

    SecondsCount Take Control Planner

    Use this planner to set manageable goals in one or two areas of your life. Remember, a goal should be specific and realistic. If you don’t achieve one of your goals, break it into smaller steps and try again.

    SecondsCount Treat Your Feet Checklist

    If you have diabetes, PAD, or both, you can prevent serious foot problems, including the loss of a toe, foot, or leg to amputation by taking care of your feet every day.

    SecondsCount Walking Guide for PAD

    A structured walking program often works better than medicine or surgery to help people with PAD walk longer and farther without pain.

    Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

    Like most of us, you’ve probably had your share of aches and pains. Sometimes you can attribute them to a specific event—helping a friend move a heavy piece of furniture or pulling a muscle after bowling for the first time in years. Other times the pain comes on more gradually. You might think it’s just another sign that you’re getting older, As you age, especially if you have other health concerns, such as diabetes, it’s important to tell your doctor about all your aches and pains, especially if you have cramping, fatigue, heaviness, tightness, or weakness in the legs while walking, running, climbing stairs or engaging in other activities. These could be symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD)—a buildup of plaque and blockages in the arteries that restrict the flow of blood to your legs.