Individuals who smoke or have a history of smoking could potentially have a 4x greater risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.).

You may know that smoking is a major cause of heart disease, cancer and lung disease. Smoking is also the number one cause of P.A.D. Studies show that smoking even half a pack of cigarettes per day may increase the risk of having P.A.D. by 30 to 50 percent.

With every puff, smoking harms your blood vessels. It speeds up the buildup of plaque in the artery walls and increases the formation of leg artery blockages. Smoking constricts blood vessels and causes the blood to clot.

As a result, smoking causes P.A.D. to get worse faster. It increases the chance of having leg pain (or claudication) even while at rest, losing a foot or a leg due to amputation, or having a heart attack or stroke. As many as one out of two people with P.A.D. who continue to smoke will have a heart attack or stroke or die within 5 years.


People who have high blood pressure also have a higher risk of having Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.). Over time, high blood pressure can harm the walls of blood vessels. The walls become rougher and thicker and there is a greater build-up of plaque. This causes the arteries to harden and narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow through the blood vessels.


When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, the walls of your blood vessels can become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits called plaque. Over time, the plaque builds up and causes hardening of the arteries (or atherosclerosis). The arteries become narrowed and blood flow is slowed down or blocked. P.A.D. occurs when the arteries in the legs are hardened and clogged. Blood flow to the legs and feet is reduced, which can cause pain when you walk. Likewise, if enough oxygen- rich blood cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is cut off, the result is a heart attack.


People with diabetes are at higher risk for having Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.). Some studies have found that one out of three people with diabetes over age 50 has P.A.D., and P.A.D. is even more common in African Americans and Hispanics who have diabetes. Because many people with diabetes do not have feeling in their feet or legs due to nerve disease, they may have P.A.D. but cannot feel any symptoms. As a result, they do not know they have P.A.D., or they may have it for a long time before it is diagnosed. Further, when blood flow to your feet and legs is narrowed or blocked due to P.A.D., it takes longer for cuts or wounds to heal, which may increase the risk for amputation.

If you have diabetes, talk with your health care provider right away if you have any of these P.A.D. warning signs:

  • Fatigue, tiredness or pain in your legs, thighs or buttocks that happens when you walk but goes away when you rest.
  • Foot or toe pain at rest that often disturbs your sleep.
  • Skin sores or wounds on your feet or toes that are slow to heal.