Peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease are both caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the process of arteries narrowing and becoming blocked over time by plaque.

When the arteries of the heart are affected then it leads to coronary artery disease but any arteries are susceptible to plaque buildup. Peripheral arteries are those away from the heart and PAD is most often seen in the legs.

Risk Factors

Peripheral artery disease is most often diagnosed in older adults. Usually, those over 50 are at the most risk even if other factors are present. Having poor circulation to the legs, however, puts many younger patients at risk. The two most common causes of poor circulation are diabetes and smoking.

If you or your family have a history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke, it’s important to watch for early symptoms. Managing your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol and help reduce your risk.

Symptoms of PAD

If you are at risk for developing peripheral artery disease or other vascular conditions, you should see a specialist regularly. Many of the symptoms of PAD can be mild or mimic other conditions, making it easy to miss and go undiagnosed.

  • Muscle cramps or pain during physical activity (example: leg pain when walking or going up stairs, arm pain when writing or knitting)
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Hip pain, especially with physical activity
  • Sores or ulcers that won’t heal
  • Difficulty finding a pulse in the legs or feet
  • Hair loss on the legs
  • Color change in the lower legs or feet, especially only on one side
  • One leg or foot feeling colder than the other
  • Brittle toenails that grow slowly
  • Shiny or dry skin
  • In men: erectile dysfunction

Testing & Diagnosis

The most common test for peripheral artery disease is the ankle-brachial index and it is simply a comparison of the blood pressure in your arm with the blood pressure reading in your ankle. Duplex imaging uses ultrasound with doppler technology to measure the blood flow in your arteries. Your provider may order additional diagnostic testing such as lab work to rule out or determine the severity of PAD.

PAD can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and, if needed, your specialist could recommend angioplasty. The earlier peripheral artery disease is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated, so make your appointment at Epic Heart & Vascular Center today. We have two convenient locations in Houston and Kingwood.