Learn about peripheral artery disease
You may have friends or loved ones who mention that they have “poor circulation” and leg pain. Maybe they have wounds that won’t heal or they can’t sleep at night. But, they dismiss their health problems as just part of getting older. Or maybe you’re experiencing similar health problems yourself. The trouble is, health problems such as heavy, tired or painful legs and feet could point to something much worse than just getting older. You could be at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Few people who have PAD know their options or even realize what PAD is. However, PAD is the biggest disease that most people have never heard about. It affects more than 18 million people – more than cancer, stroke and congestive heart failure.41-43 PAD isn’t something you can just shrug off. Early detection is important. If you think you might be at risk for the disease, consult a health care professional right away.
PAD can lead to other problems
PAD is widespread and life threatening.1 The disease is characterized by narrowed, hardened arteries in the legs, limiting blood flow to the legs and feet. This disease has a range of general symptoms including aches, numbness and burning sensations in the legs and feet. You may have trouble getting rest due to leg pain, you may have leg pain while walking and you may have sores that won’t heal. Leg pain can become intolerable,20 and amputation is a common treatment for advanced stages of the disease. Millions of Americans are living with PAD, but only 25 percent are undergoing treatment.6 Fortunately, with early detection, there may be several treatment options for people who have this disease and symptoms can be reduced or eliminated. Treating PAD early also may help prevent the disease from worsening to its most serious form, called critical limb ischemia, where the risk of amputation is significant and a patient’s life could be at risk. The effects of PAD can lead to other severe health problems. For example, atherosclerosis is associated with the buildup of calcified plaque inside arteries from PAD. The plaque buildup puts PAD patients at risk for heart attack or stroke.21
Raul can’t sleep anymore; the pain is so bad
His leg has been hurting for longer than he might admit. The pain often interrupts his sleep. His only relief is hanging his foot off the edge of the bed. Raul doesn’t know it, but that pain in his leg might mean he has one of the worst forms of peripheral artery disease (PAD), called critical limb ischemia. The disease narrows and hardens arteries in the legs and feet, limiting blood flow. Symptoms include aches, numbness and burning sensations. If left untreated, things can get rapidly worse, including the possibility that his disease could lead to having his leg amputated.9 Fortunately for Raul, there’s a simple, noninvasive test his doctor can do to show if there is a problem with blood flow to his legs called the ankle-brachial index (ABI). This test is excellent at showing doctors the severity of PAD.23 The test compares the blood pressure in your ankle to that in your arm. It’s a way for a doctor to determine if Raul’s arteries are blocked. The doctor can then develop a treatment plan to alleviate his pain and minimize the risk that his condition will worsen. If left untreated, Raul could develop wounds that won’t heal, and an amputation may be required. Does this sound familiar? If you have nighttime leg pain, learn more about other symptoms of PAD and share your concerns with a health care professional. Raul is not an actual patient. His story is intended to represent part of the population with PAD. Symptoms, treatment options and outcomes may vary.
Talk to Your Doctor
Only a health care professional can diagnose you with PAD. Our Symptom Quiz can help guide the conversation about your treatment options.
Take the Symptom Quiz
Click below to take the interactive Symptom Quiz. You can print your answers out and take them with you to a doctor to help guide your conversation about PAD.