Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.), sometimes referred to as “hardening of the arteries,” is a common, yet serious disease that occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs.
This buildup of plaque narrows the arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood. P.A.D. is most commonly seen in the legs, but also can be present in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the head, arms, kidneys and stomach. Nearly everyone who has P.A.D., even those who do not have leg symptoms, suffers from an inability to walk as fast or far as they could before.
People who have P.A.D. may have symptoms when walking or climbing stairs. These symptoms might include pain, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the leg muscles; and may include cramping in the affected legs, buttocks, thighs, calves and/or feet.
Other signs and symptoms may include sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all. However, many people who have P.A.D. don’t show any signs or symptoms.
That is why it is recommended that persons over 50 ask their doctor if they should get checked for P.A.D. There is a greater risk of the disease for those who have a history of smoking or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Left untreated, P.A.D. can progress to more serious concerns, such as heart attack, stroke, and/or loss of limbs.