September is Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month: Know the Facts

September is Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month: Know the Facts

Do you know that peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one of the most widespread chronic diseases and it currently afflicts almost 20 million U.S. citizens? September is PAD Awareness Month, a time to create awareness about this disease and learn the facts so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent it and/or keep it under control.

The information in this blog was published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We are sharing this fact sheet with our readers because it contains important information to help you learn more about PAD.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Fact Sheet

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) in the Legs or lower extremities is the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. It is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. PAD can occur in any blood vessel, but it is more common in the legs than the arms.

Prevalence of PAD (%) by Age Group (years)

The chart reflects the percentage of prevalence of PAD in men and women by age group and how it increases with age.

Risk Factors for PAD

High blood pressure




High cholesterol

Older than age 60

Risk Factors for PAD

A normal artery is shown on the left with no blockage. The right artery shows how it's been narrowed by plaque (atherosclerosis), causing decreased blood flow, and PAD.Men and woman are equally affected by PAD; however, black race/ethnicity is associated with an increased risk of PAD. People of Hispanic origin may have similar to slightly higher rates of PAD compared to non-Hispanic whites. Approximately 8 million people in the United States have PAD, including 12-20% of individuals older than age 60. General population awareness of PAD is estimated at 25%, based on prior studies.

Other clinical conditions and disorders of arteries can mimic the symptoms of PAD, and not all PAD is due to atherosclerosis.3-4

Signs and Symptoms of PAD

The classic symptom of PAD is pain in the legs with exertion such as walking, which is relieved by resting. However, up to 40% of individuals with PAD have no leg pain. Symptoms of pain, ache, or cramp with walking (claudication) can occur in the buttock, hip, thigh, or calf.3

Physical signs in the leg that may indicate peripheral arterial disease include muscle atrophy, hair loss, smooth shiny skin, skin that is cool to the touch especially if accompanied by pain while walking (which is relieved by stopping walking), decreased or absent pulses in the feet, non-healing ulcers or sores in the legs or feet, and cold or numb toes.

Preventing PAD

Diagnosis and Treatment of PAD

In patients with symptoms of PAD, the ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a non-invasive test that measures the blood pressure in the ankles and compares it with the blood pressure in the arms at rest and after exercise. Imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomographic (CT) angiography can provide additional information in diagnosing PAD.2-4

Individuals with PAD are at risk for developing coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin or other similar anti-platelet medications may prevent the development of serious complications from PAD and associated atherosclerosis.

All efforts must be made to stop smoking.Severe cases may require surgery to bypass blocked arteries.

Allison MA, Ho E, Denenberg JO, et al. Ethnic-specific prevalence of peripheral arterial disease in the United States. 2007 American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2007;32:328-333.
Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et. al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2011 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2011;123:e18-e209.
Creager MA, Loscalzo J. Vascular Diseases of the Extremities. In: Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Kasper DL, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17e ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.
Rooke TW, Wennberg PW. Diagnosis and Management of Diseases of the Peripheral Arteries and Veins. In: Walsh RA, Simon DI, Hoit BD, et al., eds.: Hurst’s The Heart. 12e ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007.
Hirsch AT, Haskal ZJ, Hertzer NR, et al. ACC/AHA 2005 Practice guidelines for the management of patients withi peripheral arterial disease (lower extremity, renal, mesenteric, and abdominal aortic): Circulation. 2006;113:e463-654.

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