These facts about peripheral artery disease may surprise you.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that isn’t talked about much, but it can have a big impact on your health. The condition occurs when plaque builds up in the blood vessels of your extremities, primarily your legs, reducing blood flow and causing pain. Many people dismiss this pain as a normal sign of aging, but left untreated PAD can cause painful symptoms or even the loss of your leg. It can also indicate that you’re at an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Here are some features of PAD you may find surprising:

1. PAD doesn’t affect women very often.
True

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False

Peripheral artery disease is more common in women than some types of cancer, such as breast and cervical cancers. The condition is strongly associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women. That’s why it’s important for women to talk to their doctors about whether they should be screened for PAD.

2. Men with PAD have a poorer diagnosis than women.
True

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False

Women tend to be diagnosed with peripheral artery disease at a later stage than men, which can lead to poorer outcomes. This may be because women often don’t display symptoms of the disease. The disease has also been shown to progress faster in women than men, but it is not yet understood why this happens.

3. Your risk of PAD increases if you have diabetes.
True

Diabetes is just one risk factor for developing peripheral artery disease. Other risk factors include age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking and having a family history of PAD.

False

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4. The symptoms of PAD are the same for every person.
True

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False

There are a variety of symptoms that can occur in people with PAD and about 60% of people affected by the disease have atypical symptoms or no symptoms at all. The most common symptom is painful muscle cramping in the legs that occurs with exercise but goes away with rest. Other symptoms include leg pain at rest (often at more advanced stages) as well as fatigue, heaviness, color or temperature changes or slow healing of wounds affecting the legs or feet.

5. You can treat PAD by making positive lifestyle changes.
True

If caught early, you can often treat peripheral artery disease by exercising, eating healthy, losing weight, managing diabetes and/or quitting smoking. In some cases, you may also need medication or other treatments.

False

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Find a Vascular Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

Find a Vascular Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

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Date Last Reviewed: July 20, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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