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What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs.  When you develop peripheral artery disease, your extremities – usually your legs – do not receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand.  This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking called intermittent claudication. Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis).  This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs. 

What are Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease?

The majority of the people with peripheral arterial disease have mild or no symptoms at all.  Some people have leg pain associated with walking (intermittent claudication) Peripheral artery disease symptoms include:

  • Painful cramping in your hip, thigh, or calf muscles after activity, such as walking or climbing staris
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other leg
  • Sores on your toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
  • A change in the color of your legs
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
  • Slower growth or thickening of your toenail
  • Shiny skin on your legs
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

What are Risk Factors of Peripheral Arterial Disease? Factors that increase your risk of developing peripheral artery disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher)
  • High cholesterol
  • Increasing age, especially after reaching 50 years of age
  • Family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease, or stroke
  • Obesity (a body mass index over 30)

When Should I be Screen for Peripheral Arterial Disease?

If you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms Over age 70 Over age 59 and have a history of diabetes or smoking Under age 50 but have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors such as smoking history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

What Diagnostic Tests are Available for Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Physical Exam Ankle-Brachial Index Ultrasound Computer Tomography Angiography Magnetic Resonance Angiography Angiography