Clearing Up Misconceptions About PAD
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects up 20 million Americans.41 Yet the disease is not well known — and many people have never even heard of it.
Maybe you know of PAD, but we want you to have the most accurate information! PAD is a dangerous disease and should not be ignored. Read here about common misconceptions so you can recognize the symptoms.
7 Myths (and Facts) About PAD Symptoms
There are many false assumptions about PAD, including:
- Myth 1 – PAD isn’t a risk because no one talks about it. Many people don’t understand that PAD is the equivalent of a heart attack for your legs. The disease affects a larger population than cancer, stroke and congestive heart failure.41–43
- Myth 2 – PAD causes obvious symptoms. One myth about PAD is that it would show up with obvious symptoms, like leg cramping or visible skin or nail changes. However, only 10% of people who have peripheral arterial disease in their legs actually have classic leg pain symptoms, says Medscape. Some people also think that if they have PAD but don’t have any symptoms, that it isn’t that bad. The lack of symptoms may, in fact, be because people cut back on their physical activity and that led to the symptoms going away. If the symptoms return when you walk or exercise more, the PAD is still affecting your health.
- Myth 3 – PAD only affects older people. While it’s true that PAD disproportionately affects the elderly, abnormal blood flow can occur in people under age 40 due to smoking, diabetes, family history of vascular disease, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol.
- Myth 4 – PAD only affects men. PAD was once believed to be a problem mostly for older men. That idea may have caught on because men were more likely to complain to their doctors about the pain. Men are also more likely to be cigarette smokers, with the largest group of smokers between ages 45 and 64. This age range is when PAD is often diagnosed.
- Myth 5 – PAD doesn’t affect a person’s overall health. Some people don’t understand how healthy legs are important to overall health — especially to cardiovascular health. They might not realize that atherosclerosis (or the hardening of arteries) in the legs and feet are potential signs of blockage elsewhere in the rest of the body. PAD could be a sign that you’re at risk for a heart attack or a stroke in addition to PAD’s serious consequences.21
- Myth 6 – PAD is not fatal. A particularly deadly belief is that PAD only affects a person’s quality of life. But PAD, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to a heart attack, stroke or death regardless of symptoms.19
- Myth 7 – PAD is difficult to diagnose. Patients may not realize the severity of their disease because they’ve just accepted PAD symptoms over time, blaming old age. They may also associate the symptoms with other, more manageable conditions like arthritis. Consequently, a patient may not even mention their pain to their doctor, which limits the likelihood of diagnosis. If you discuss your symptoms with your doctor, there are tests like the non-invasive ankle-brachial index (ABI) test to properly diagnose PAD.
For More Information
People pay a lot of attention to clogged arteries in the heart, chest and neck because we all know that they can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It’s important to remember that arterial blockage can occur anywhere in the body — especially the legs.
Don’t dismiss the signs of PAD due to these myths. Educate yourself and contact a healthcare professional by using CSI’s Find a Doctor tool if you’re concerned about PAD.