Pain or cramping in the legs may be a sign of a serious condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). September is PAD Awareness Month, and Cardiovascular Institute of the South (CIS) urges our communities to know the risk factors and symptoms of this condition and the importance of screening and early detection.
Peripheral artery disease occurs when peripheral arteries, most commonly in the legs, have plaque build-up or blockages, restricting blood flow. These blockages keep extremities and organs from receiving oxygenated blood. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, blocked arteries in the legs raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
One in 20 Americans over the age of 50 has PAD, but many do not recognize the symptoms, or know to see a cardiologist for them. PAD is a common and treatable condition; however if left untreated, it can decrease quality of life and lead to amputation. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most patients can manage the symptoms of PAD and avoid amputation or heart attacks.
- Ulcers/wounds that won’t heal
- Pain or cramping in the legs
- Discoloration of the legs/feet
- Numbness or coldness in legs/feet
- Slow hair growth on the legs
- Weak pulse in the legs
- Pale, shiny skin
Those who are most at risk for PAD include anyone over the age of 50, especially African Americans; those who smoke or have smoked; and those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or a personal or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.
A simple, painless ultrasound can test the blood flow in your legs to determine your risk of PAD.
In honor of PAD Month, CIS is hosting free screening events at various locations. View the list of events here.CIS location near you.