Nearly 9 million Americans have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the narrowing of the vessels that carry blood from your heart to every other part of your body. PAD happens when sticky cholesterol deposits build up along the artery walls, causing them to become stiff and narrow.

Also known as peripheral artery disease, PAD causes serious problems with circulation in your legs. Without treatment, PAD can have negative — even deadly — consequences. Despite the seriousness of the disease, many people have PAD and don’t even know it.

Like many vascular problems, peripheral arterial disease responds best when it’s treated early. Ashish Pal, MD, wants patients at Vein & Cardiovascular Center to learn to recognize the symptoms of PAD, so they can seek treatment as soon as possible.

Telltale signs of peripheral arterial disease

Here are seven signs of PAD you should know about:

1. Leg aching or cramps

Leg pain and cramps happen because the muscles in your legs aren’t getting enough blood. The pain is kind of like a distress signal from those muscles. People with PAD tend to feel most pain in their calves, but it can also happen in your buttocks and thighs, especially when exercising.

2. Discolored skin

With PAD, poor circulation can lead to changes in your skin color, particularly areas of your skin that appear pinker than the surrounding skin. Your skin may also look especially shiny.

3. Slow wound healing

Circulation plays a big role in healing, bringing nutrients essential for clotting and tissue repair while also carrying away toxins. When your arteries aren’t carrying enough blood to your legs and feet, sores in those areas can take a long time to heal, raising the risk of serious infections.

4. Legs that feel heavy or fatigued

In addition to leg cramps and pain, many people with PAD experience symptoms like heaviness or fatigue in their legs. These symptoms feel worse when you’re walking or exercising, going away when you rest.

5. Discomfort when exercising — even walking

Muscles need oxygen to function normally. If you have PAD, your arteries aren’t delivering the oxygen your muscles need for physical activity. Many people with PAD notice their leg discomfort is worse when exercising and goes away when at rest.

6. Changes in hair and nail growth

Toenails and hair follicles depend on blood to support their normal growth cycles. With PAD, you may notice irregularities in hair or nail growth on your legs and feet.

7. Changes in your feet

PAD affects feet in different ways. In addition to slow-healing wounds, your feet may feel cold to the touch or you may have burning pain or aching in your feet while trying to sleep at night.

Risk factors for PAD

Knowing what symptoms to look for is important for identifying PAD early, and it’s also important to know your risk factors. PAD is more common in people who:

  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Smoke
  • Are over age 50
  • Are obese
  • Have diabetes
  • Aren’t physically active

If you have PAD risk factors — even without noticeable symptoms — having a vascular evaluation with Dr. Pal is a good way to help prevent PAD from developing.

Don’t ignore your symptoms

With offices in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, Vein & Cardiovascular Center offers the most advanced cardiovascular care to help patients lead their healthiest lives. If you’re concerned about peripheral arterial disease, book an appointment online or by phone today.

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