Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a slow and progressive circulation disorder that causes the arteries leading to your legs and feet to narrow and not to function properly. This is due to the accumulation of plaque inside the arteries, a process that happens to most people over the course of a lifetime.
Risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol accelerate this process. When plaque has built up inside the arteries, blood can’t flow to the legs and feet as it should. This results in peripheral artery disease symptoms, such as leg pain while climbing a flight of stairs or other simple activities.
You might ask yourself, “Do I have peripheral artery disease?” A peripheral artery disease test will provide the clearest answer. At USA Vascular Centers, our expert vascular doctors offer convenient screenings to confirm a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease, as well as leading-edge PAD treatments to help reduce your symptoms and risk of complications.
Unfortunately, PAD is a form of cardiovascular disease because it affects the blood vessels and only worsens if not treated, potentially leading to gangrene, amputation, and even death. In addition, PAD symptoms indicate a higher risk of vascular diseases that lead to heart attack and stroke. That’s why USA Vascular Centers offers 40 locations (and counting) throughout the United States. So if you’re wondering, “do I have peripheral artery disease?,” we are here to give you answers and provide treatment to get you back to your favorite activities.
Most Common Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms
Peripheral artery disease doesn’t always have apparent symptoms, especially not in the disease’s earlier stages. However, understanding the key peripheral artery disease signs can help you know when to get help.
The most common symptom of peripheral artery disease is leg pain or cramping that begins when you do light activity, such as walking a block or two, and stops when you sit down to rest. Also known as intermittent claudication, this symptom is an indicator of PAD that occurs when the muscles in the legs don’t receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function correctly. This is a direct result of the restricted blood flow caused by clogged arteries.
Impeded blood flow can cause additional peripheral artery disease symptoms, such as leg hair that stops growing, wounds that take too long to heal, and changes in skin temperature (for example, one foot or leg might feel colder than the other). If you notice these or any other signs of peripheral artery disease, we recommend seeing a vascular specialist as soon as possible. Our expert vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers perform minimally invasive procedures to open blocked arteries, helping to restore blood flow and ease symptoms of PAD.
How Do I Know If I Have Vascular Disease?
In addition to recognizing key symptoms of peripheral artery disease, being aware of PAD risk factors can help you know if you should get tested for vascular disease. Because everyone experiences plaque accumulation over time, anyone over the age of 65 should undergo a PAD screening. However, those who live with PAD risk factors should consider undergoing a peripheral artery disease test annually once they reach age 50. Common PAD risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, a family history of vascular disease, and obesity. However, two of the most significant peripheral artery disease risk factors are smoking and diabetes.
Smoking and Peripheral Artery Disease
Studies show that about half of all PAD cases may be directly caused by a smoking habit.1 Smoking damages your arteries, making it easier for plaque to build up and block blood flow.2
If you currently smoke, quitting can help reduce your PAD risk. Notably, if you smoke and have PAD, quitting before undergoing PAD treatment can help improve the outcome of your treatment.1
Diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease
People with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing PAD. In addition, diabetes makes PAD worsen more quickly, driving up the likelihood of complications that lead to hospitalization and limb amputation.3, 4
Making sure your diabetes is well-managed can help, but it’s important to undergo a peripheral artery disease test as soon as possible if you live with diabetes. After an initial screening at USA Vascular Centers, our doctors will assist you in determining how often to retest for PAD so you can keep an eye on your vascular health.
Take Our “Do I Have Peripheral Artery Disease?” Quiz
We offer a free online resource to help answer the question, “Do I have peripheral artery disease?” Our peripheral artery disease risk assessment quiz takes just minutes to complete, and can help you understand the importance of scheduling a peripheral artery disease test.
How is PAD Diagnosed?
Our doctors are interventional radiologists who offer two peripheral artery disease tests: ankle-brachial index (ABI) tests and angiograms. An ABI test measures and compares the blood pressure in your ankle and arm; the resulting number can indicate the presence or absence of peripheral artery disease. Angiograms use contrast dye and X-ray imaging to help our interventional radiologists visualize blockages in your arteries.
Treatment at USA Vascular Centers
We offer three minimally invasive procedures to treat PAD at our state-of-the-art outpatient centers: atherectomy, stent placement, and angioplasty. Each of these non-surgical treatments uses advanced catheterization techniques to widen narrowed arteries. Because our team of interventional radiologists are skilled vascular doctors who perform these procedures at our on-site cath labs, you won’t need to stay at a hospital, get stitches, or endure weeks of recovery time.
Schedule Your Appointment with USA Vascular Centers
The empathetic doctors at USA Vascular Centers can help you navigate a peripheral artery disease diagnosis. They will listen carefully to your concerns and put together a personalized treatment plan to help you get back on your feet.
If you have any questions about peripheral artery disease, reach out to our team at 888-773-2193 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to answering your questions, helping reduce your PAD symptoms, and improving your quality of life.
- Wang, Weiming, Tingting Zhao, Kang Geng, Gang Yuan, Yue Chen, and Youhua Xu. “Smoking and the Pathophysiology of Peripheral Artery Disease.” Frontiers. Frontiers, July 31, 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcvm.2021.704106/full .
- “How Smoking Affects the Heart and Blood Vessels.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed December 11, 2022. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart/smoking
- Thiruvoipati, Thejasvi, Caitlin E Kielhorn, and Ehrin J Armstrong. “Peripheral Artery Disease in Patients with Diabetes: Epidemiology, Mechanisms, and Outcomes.” World journal of diabetes. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 10, 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499529/.
- Soyoye, David Olubukunmi, Olugbenga Olusola Abiodun, Rosemary Temidayo Ikem, Babatope Ayodeji Kolawole, and Anthony Olubunmi Akintomide. “Diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease: A Review.” World journal of diabetes. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 15, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8192257/.