P.A.D. - Causes and Symptoms

 What Causes P.A.D?

The cause of plaque buildup in the limbs is unknown in most cases.  However, there are some conditions and habits that raise your chance of developing P.A.D.  Your risk increases if you:

  • Are over the age of 50.
  • Smoke or used to smoke.  Those who smoke or have a history of smoking have up to four times greater risk of P.A.D. 
  • Have diabetes.  One in every three people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have P.A.D.
  • Have high blood pressure.  Also called hypertension, high blood pressure raises the risk of developing plaque in the arteries.
  • Have high blood cholesterol.  Excess cholesterol and fat in your blood contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries, reducing or blocking blood flow to your heart, brain, or limbs.
  • Have a personal history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.  If you have heart disease, you have a one in three chance of also having P.A.D.
  • Are African American.  African Americans are more than twice as likely to have P.A.D. as their white counterparts.

Most people with P.A.D. have one or more conditions or habits that raise the risk for heart disease: smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high blood cholesterol.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of P.A.D.?

If they are present, the typical signs and symptoms of the disease include:

  • Claudication—fatigue, heaviness, tiredness, cramping in the leg muscles (buttocks, thigh, or calf) that occurs during activity such as walking or climbing stairs.

This pain or discomfort goes away once the activity is stopped and during rest.  Many people do not report this problem to their health care providers because they think it is a natural part of aging or due to some other cause.

  • Pain in the legs and/or feet that disturbs sleep.
  • Sores or wounds on toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all.
  • Color changes in the skin of the feet, including paleness or blueness.
  • A lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg.
  • Poor nail growth and decreased hair growth on toes and legs.

However, most people with P.A.D. do not experience symptoms.

If you believe you are at risk for P.A.D., discuss this concern with your health care provider.  Find out if you should be tested for P.A.D and what you can do to lower your risk.