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
- you have leg pain
- smoke or have a history of smoking
- are over 70
- are over 50 and diabetic
- 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.