Mayo Clinic: I often get leg cramps and am wondering if I
should get screened for peripheral artery disease, since my
father had it. Are there other symptoms of peripheral artery
disease I should be looking for?
Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects the arteries that
supply oxygen and nutrients to the leg muscles. Leg cramping
when you walk is one of its symptoms. The medical term for
this is intermittent claudication. It usually goes away within
a few minutes after you stop walking. A family history of
peripheral artery disease can increase your risk for
developing this disease, so it would be a good idea to see
your health care provider and get tested for it.
artery disease happens when plaque builds up in your arteries,
narrowing them and sometimes blocking them completely. When
arteries are narrowed or blocked, the oxygen and nutrients in
your blood canít get to your tissues and muscles easily. The
rate at which the plaque builds up and symptoms begin is
different for every person.
of peripheral artery disease often include tightness,
cramping, weakness or numbness in the calf, thigh or buttocks
when you walk. These symptoms can sometimes lead to leg
weakness and falls. Other symptoms may include a cold feeling
in your lower leg or foot; sores on your toes, feet or legs
that wonít heal; a change in the color of your legs; hair
loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs; slow toenail
growth; shiny skin on your legs; no pulse or a weak pulse in
your legs or feet; and, in men, erectile dysfunction.
health care provider can diagnose peripheral artery disease
using a test called the ankle-brachial index. It measures the
blood pressure in your legs and compares it to the blood
pressure in your arm. In people who donít have peripheral
artery disease, blood pressure in the legs is higher or equal
to the one in the arm. People with peripheral artery disease
have a much lower blood pressure in their legs.
with PAD have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
Effective treatment of peripheral artery disease often
includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. In
some cases, a procedure to open the arteries is necessary.
the best things you can do if you have peripheral artery
disease is start walking on a regular basis. Walk for 30
minutes a day, at least four or five days a week. If thatís
too much initially due to leg pain, then walk until, or just
past, the maximum leg discomfort you can tolerate. Try to go a
little farther every day, until youíre up to 30 minutes. The
exercise will improve your heart and blood vessel health by
improving oxygen delivery to your muscles, thereby helping
your muscles work better and longer. Walking also promotes the
growth of new blood vessels.
cholesterol is a contributing factor to peripheral artery
disease, and getting cholesterol under control is critical to
successful peripheral artery disease treatment. Depending on
your situation, you may need a statin medication to lower the
level of cholesterol in your blood. Eating a healthy diet and
maintaining a healthy weight can help lower cholesterol, too.
medical conditions that can worsen peripheral artery disease
include uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure. If you
have either of those conditions, talk to your health care
provider about a treatment plan.
if you have peripheral artery disease and smoke, you need to
stop. Smoking contributes to constriction and damage of your
arteries and can make peripheral artery disease worse. If you
smoke, quitting is the most important thing you can do to
reduce your risk of peripheral artery disease complications.
If youíre having trouble quitting on your own, ask your
health care provider about smoking cessation options,
including medications to help you quit.