Ask most people what the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) are, and they would probably say, "I don't know." Denver PAD experts Dr. Aaron Kovaleski and Dr. Charles Nutting say, "This is a problem, because PAD is one of the most underreported and underdiagnosed health conditions in the U.S." One reason PAD is underreported is that patients tend to "write off" its symptoms, thinking that they are normal signs of aging. We're publishing this article so that you can recognize these symptoms, and be more likely to seek treatment.
The most commonly ignored symptom of PAD – intermittent claudication
Don't let the term 'intermittent claudication' scare you. It just means weakness, leg pain, and cramping in the muscles of the legs, buttocks, thigh, or calf. This cramping leg pain often occurs during activity, such as walking, climbing stairs, or exercising. It tends to go away when the activity stops, and when you are at rest. This is the symptom most often written off as "just aging."
Other symptoms that may be indications of PAD
- Unexplained swelling in the legs.
- If the skin of one of your legs feels colder to the touch than the other leg.
- Weak or absent pulses in the legs and feet.
- Burning pain in the toes and feet, especially if you feel this pain even when you're at rest, or if it disturbs your sleep.
The most dangerous PAD symptoms – skin changes and wounds on the feet
These symptoms are caused by the impaired blood circulation that PAD causes. They may first appear as changes on your legs and feet that turn the skin pale, blue, or shiny, or as poor hair and nail growth. In men, erectile dysfunction can also be a symptom of PAD.
Probably the most worrisome symptom, however, is the appearance of sores and wounds on the feet and that don't heal within a month of their first appearance. Non-healing wounds on the feet can lead to critical limb ischemia, which can result in lower limb amputation.
So if you are over 50, be on the lookout for any of these symptoms, and if you notice them, contact your personal physician and ask to be tested for PAD. If it turns out you have PAD, you should also consider contacting the best peripheral arterial disease specialists near you at ECCO either via phone at 720-668-8818 or go online to schedule an apppointment. Early treatment can relieve these symptoms, and keep them from getting worse.