Signs of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

It’s easy to imagine what would happen if your throat was blocked and you suddenly couldn’t get any air in your lungs. If you’ve ever choked on a piece of food, you know this terrifying sensation. It’s the same with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), except it’s your arteries that are blocked.

Responsible for carrying blood from your heart to the rest of your body, healthy arteries are crucial to your organs, head, and brain, as well as your arms, legs, hands, and feet. 

But when you have PAD, these superhighways become too narrow to do their job efficiently, and your tissues begin to suffer, gasping for oxygen just as your lungs do, only you can’t see it happening.

Even though PAD is invisible, there are signs to warn you about what’s going on, and our team of vascular experts at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates can screen you for, diagnose, and treat PAD before you face serious complications, such as: 

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Amputation
  • Gangrene

Here’s what we want you should know about PAD and what to look for.

Plaque and PAD

You know what it’s like when a drain gets clogged with sludge and grime and chokes off the waterflow. Think of PAD like a pipe inside your body that can’t carry blood because it’s walls are caked with sludge of a different sort, called plaque. 

The plaque inside your arteries is made up of waxy substances like cholesterol and fat. Over time, plaque builds up and hardens, decreasing the diameter of your arteries. Risk factors for PAD include:

PAD also runs in families and tends to affect African Americans more than any other ethnic group.

Signs you might have PAD

PAD can be sneaky and hide its symptoms or disguise them as symptoms of other conditions.  That’s why we encourage all our patients over 70 to get screened for PAD. And the same goes for our younger patients who fall into the high-risk categories we mentioned. 

When PAD does show you it’s warning signs, you might mistake them for the normal aches and pains of getting older, so don’t shrug off the following symptoms:

  • Pain while walking or exercising
  • Pain in your calf muscle
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs or feet
  • Coldness in one leg
  • Bluish or shiny skin
  • Less hair on your legs
  • Toenails that are discolored or slow-growing
  • Weak pulse in your legs
  • Slow-healing wounds on your legs or feet

PAD primarily affects your circulation — particularly in your lower body — so you might notice changes in the appearance or feel of your legs and feet. Men with PAD may have trouble getting or achieving an erection.

Who needs to get screened for PAD?

Everyone should get screened for PAD after their 70th birthday, whether they have symptoms or not. Everyone age 50 and over who has been a smoker, has diabetes, or has one or more of the risk factors should get screened for PAD.

Screening is simple and painless and can save you life, because if we catch it early PAD is highly treatable and can prevent life-threatening conditions. 

When you come into Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates for a PAD screening, we start with a thorough physical examination and look for changes in your skin and other signs of disease.

We also compare the blood pressure in your legs and feet with the reading from your arm. If they’re the same, you don’t have PAD, but if your blood pressure is lower in your legs, it’s very likely that you have PAD. 

If we suspect PAD, we run tests to evaluate how well your blood is flowing so we can identify any blockages and develop a treatment plan.

Now that you know the signs and the risk factors of PAD, make sure you get screened early or start treatment, if necessary. To make an appointment, contact us or request an appointment online today. 

We have offices in Englewood, New Jersey, and in Goshen, Pomona, and Fishkill, New York, as well as the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.