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Signs of Peripheral Vascular Disorders

According to the American Heart Association, as many as eight to 12 million Americans have peripheral artery disease (PAD), and nearly 75 percent don't have symptoms.

PAD develops when your arteries become clogged with plaque - the fatty deposits that limit blood flow to your legs. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs indicates you are at risk for having a heart attack or stroke. People with PAD who do experience symptoms often mistake them for something else, such as back or muscle problems.

Men are more likely than women to experience symptoms of PAD. The most common symptoms include cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. This pain typically subsides with rest and returns with activity.

Factors that put you at risk include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stroke

Diagnosing PAD

PAD is easily diagnosed in a simple, painless way. Techniques include review of medical history, a physical exam, ultrasound, X-ray angiography and magnetic resonance imaging angiography (MRA).

Most cases can be managed through health lifestyle changes and medication. To reduce your risk:

  • Stop smoking
  • Control diabetes
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a well-balanced diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol

If lifestyle changes and medications aren't sufficient enough to control the disease, angioplasty or surgery may be necessary.