Choose Language
Choose Language


Blog: Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease

Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease

It’s a simple fact of life that certain tasks and movements become harder as you age. Sometimes even the most mundane tasks become more difficult or painful. For example, you may not be able to turn your head as far or may need more time to get up from the couch. 

Perhaps most common among all of these later-life slowdowns is walking. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 15.7 million Americans over 65 have some kind of disability. And two-thirds of these seniors have issues with walking or general mobility. 

If you experience pain while walking, you may be suffering from peripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease. Thankfully, this disease doesn’t have to be permanent and may be treated and eventually eradicated through treatment.  

Are you currently dealing with pain when walking that often dissipates after you get off your feet? If so, come see the team at Phoenix Heart. We were recently voted No. 1 in cardiology groups by Ranking Arizona magazine and we set the bar in cardiovascular care. Our medical team is dedicated to treating patients and their caregivers with the utmost respect, empathy, and professionalism. We are consistently at the forefront of adopting the newest and best technologies to advance the health of our patients.

When it comes to peripheral artery disease, early detection can help you get a head start on your road to recovery. Below, find out more about peripheral artery disease and how we detect and treat it.

What is peripheral artery disease?

Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs. This, in turn, effectively narrows your arteries and reduces the blood flow to the areas they serve. 

These areas don’t get enough blood to satisfy their demand, which causes painful symptoms. Although the disease can manifest in many parts of the body, most patients feel its effects most acutely in their legs.

A tricky diagnosis

Because leg pain is so common in older adults and seniors, the symptoms of peripheral artery disease are often mistaken for something else. In fact, the American Heart Association has found that it frequently goes undiagnosed by medical professionals. 

Despite this, people who suffer from this disease are at a higher risk for heart attack or stroke. If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can lead to gangrene and even amputation.

What causes peripheral artery disease?

The disease is most often caused by atherosclerosis, the name for the process of fatty plaque building up in the arteries. Common risk factors for peripheral artery disease include the following:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Age above 60 years

The disease can affect people of all races, but African Americans are at a much higher risk of developing it. Hispanic Americans also carry a slightly higher risk.


The best way to stop the progression of peripheral artery disease is through early recognition of its symptoms. The quicker you notice the disease, the quicker you can start treatment. Common symptoms may include:

  • Pain when walking
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss on legs or arms
  • Weak pulses in legs and feet
  • Heaviness, numbness, or tingling of extremities
  • Bulging or tender veins
  • Discoloration of skin, especially when legs are elevated
  • Skin changes, such as becoming thin, brittle, or shiny

A clear sign of peripheral artery disease is leg pain that is relieved when you’re at rest. This is because your legs require less blood when they’re not being actively used.


If there is a silver lining to all of this, it’s that lifestyle adjustments are often the best way to treat peripheral artery disease. When caught early, weight loss, ending tobacco usage, exercise, and improved eating and nutrition may be able to significantly improve your symptoms.

You can beat peripheral artery disease with early detection and treatment. Phoenix Heart can help. Call or request an appointment at one of our five Phoenix area offices today.

Scroll to Top

Request Appointment