Women with Diabetes Have Increased Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Women with diabetes have an increased risk of developing peripheral artery disease, a thickening of the inside walls in the arteries of your legs. The excess sugar in the blood of women with diabetes damages the blood vessel walls, making them thicker and less elastic. As the arteries become progressively more damaged, it is more difficult for blood to flow through them. This can also lead to high blood pressure, another major risk factor for PAD.

Stiff and narrowed arteries reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to muscles and organs. In women with PAD in the legs, the leg muscles may not be able to get enough blood, causing leg pain that occurs when walking, but dissipates at rest. This is known as intermittent claudication, one of the major symptoms of PAD.

Along with smoking, diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for PAD. PAD is up to 4 times as common in women with diabetes compared with non-diabetic women. The longer you have had diabetes, the more likely you are to develop PAD.

Diabetes can also cause problems that make PAD symptoms more difficult to recognize. Diabetes often causes nerve problems in the legs or feet that blunt pain signals, making the symptoms of PAD harder to detect. For this reason, it is especially important that women with diabetes get regular testing with an Ankle-Brachial Index test to identify PAD early so it can be properly treated. If left untreated, PAD can lead to critical limb ischemia and amputation of a lower limb may be necessary.

Diabetes also puts you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney, nerve, and eye damage. The good news is that proper treatment and lifestyle changes can drastically reduce the risk of future problems.

If you have pain in your leg while walking and it subsides at rest, you may have PAD.

We invite you to contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our board certified endovascular surgeons to determine whether you have PAD and to discuss treatment options and lifestyle changes. Being proactive about your health can save your limbs and your life.

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