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Blog: 5 Uncomfortable Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

5 Uncomfortable Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects roughly 5% of Americans over age 50, significantly increasing their risks of both heart attack and stroke. PAD develops when deposits of sticky, cholesterol-based plaques build up in your arteries, blocking the flow of blood.

PAD mostly affects the arteries in your legs, but it can happen in other arteries, too, including those in your arms. Fortunately, PAD is manageable with medical therapies, and like other health problems, it responds best when treated early. To make sure you receive treatment as soon as possible, it’s important to recognize the most common symptoms of PAD. Here, the team at Phoenix Heart, PLLC, reviews five of those symptoms to help you decide when it’s time to schedule a medical evaluation.

1. Leg cramps or burning sensations

Many people with PAD have leg pain, achiness, or burning sensations in the affected limb. These sensations tend to become a lot worse with physical activity, lessening or subsiding with rest. That’s because physical activity increases the muscles’ demand for oxygen-rich blood, and when that blood supply diminishes, your muscles react by sending out pain signals. When you relax, the demand for oxygen decreases, and the symptoms decrease, too.

2. Cooler skin on one leg

Your blood is warm, and when it circulates through your skin, it makes your skin feel warm, too. When plaque deposits in PAD interfere with circulation, the limb receives less blood — and less warmth. If one limb feels cooler than the other, it could be a symptom of PAD.

3. Changes in skin color or texture

Decreased blood flow doesn’t just cause changes in the temperature of your skin. A decline in circulation can affect your skin’s texture and color, too. Many people with PAD find that the skin on one limb appears paler or has a bluish tint when less oxygen reaches the tissues. Less blood flow means your skin receives fewer nutrients that are necessary to support skin health. As a result, you might have less hair growth on the limb, and the skin may appear very smooth or unusually shiny. These changes can also lead to uncomfortable itching sensations.

4. Frequent sores that take time to heal

Circulation plays a critical role in healing, so it’s no surprise that PAD can interfere with how your skin responds to injuries. When your skin is injured, blood brings oxygen, growth factors, and other healing components to restore damaged tissue. Plus, your circulatory system carries away toxins that can interfere with healing.Without adequate blood flow, it can take significantly longer for cuts and sores to heal. At the same time, decreased blood flow may make your skin more prone to sores and cuts. Without prompt attention, sores that don’t heal quickly can increase your risk of serious infections.

5. Weaker pulse in one leg

Finally, lower blood flow in your limb means the pulse will be weaker, too. In fact, during your exam, your provider takes your pulse in both limbs (sometimes using a blood pressure cuff) and compares the results. If there’s a significant difference between the two pulses, it could be a sign of PAD. Although this symptom may not cause uncomfortable symptoms, it could still be a key indicator of PAD, making it worth noting. 

Patient-centered care for better cardiovascular health

With locations in Glendale, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Anthem, Avondale, Laveen Village, and Black Canyon City, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, makes it easy and convenient to get the care you need for PAD and other cardiovascular issues.

To learn more about PAD, including ways to treat it and even prevent it, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team today.

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