Many people that have peripheral artery disease have little to no symptoms. One study shows that up to 40% of PAD patients do not experience leg pain. Symptoms typically slowly develop over time and patients often think that they are just a part of aging. However, if peripheral artery disease progresses without treatment, there is the potential for serious consequences. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should speak to a doctor.
Jump to PAD Symptom
- Leg or Foot Pain at Night
- Foot sores or wounds that won’t heal
- Discoloration of the skin
- Slower growth of hair or nails
- Reduce pulse in the legs or feet
Claudication (Leg Pain)
Claudication is a pain in the leg that is caused by exercise. The sensation can also be experienced as cramping or muscle fatigue. Those that are experiencing claudication have trouble walking for prolonged periods of time. The pain can sometimes be felt in both legs but most commonly occurs in a single leg. Typically, the pain is worse in one leg and is the main cause of limited mobility.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is when blood flow to the legs and feet is reduced because of narrow or blocked arteries. The blockage is usually caused by a buildup of plaque, which is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances in the blood. Decreased blood flow to the legs and feet is what causes claudication.
Leg or Foot Pain at Night
When you have peripheral artery disease the blood flow to your legs and feet is reduced. Throughout the day gravity helps bring blood down to your feet. At night, when you are laying down, gravity isn’t helping to deliver the blood to your lower extremitiies. Hanging your legs over the side of the bed or standing up can help the blood flow to your lower limbs and reduce the numbness or pain caused by peripheral artery disease.
Foot Sores or Wounds That Won’t Heal
Chronic wounds are wounds that are open for longer than a month because they are unable to heal properly. The wounds pose a great risk because they can possibly lead to gangrene or amputation. It is very important to speak to a doctor when you notice that a wound is not able to progress through the normal healing process in a timely manner.
Diabetic foot ulcers are common for people that have diabetes. Peripheral artery disease is common for people that have diabetes. Therefore, diabetic foot ulcers are common in people with peripheral artery disease (PDFs may require an additional application to access. You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader if you require such an application). PAD cause a reduction in blood flow, leading to inadequate oxidation of the tissues which is required for healing to occur.
Discoloration of the skin
Peripheral artery disease can cause the color of the legs and feet to change. Most commonly the discoloration presents itself as a shade of blue. This can be a sign that not enough nutrients or oxygen are able to be supplied to the legs and feet by the blood. Patients with legs and feet that are experiencing discoloration should seek medical attention so that a professional can determine how serious the underlying issues are.
Slower Growth of the Hair or Nails
Proper circulation is necessary in order for toenails and leg hair to grow. When oxygen and nutrients are not sufficiently supplied to the legs and feet it can cause toenail and leg hair growth to low or to stop growing entirely.
Capillaries are small blood vessels that are located under the nail bed. In order for toenails to grow, these capillaries require a good supply of blood. These capillaries cause the pink hue of the toenails; if toenails are grey or purple then medical attention should be sought.
Reduced Pulse in the Legs or Feet
Reduced or missing pulse in the legs or feet are signs of peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease causes reduced blood flow to the legs and feet. This would cause the pulse to be reduced as well. This symptom often occurs with other symptoms, such as discoloration of the skin and slower growth of hair or nails, because of the limited blood flow. Reduced pulse is an indicator that a patient may have limited blood flow to the lower leg extremities and patients that experience reduced pulse in the legs or feet should consult with a doctor.
The ankle-brachial index is a test that measures the pulse near the ankles and compares it to the pulse in the arms. This test is used to determine if there is a reduced pulse in the legs or feet. If the difference is significant then it may indicate that the patient has peripheral artery disease.
Take Action Against PAD
If you have pain in your legs when you walk, numbness in your legs or feet, discolored skin, reduced pulse, foot wounds that don’t heal, slower hair growth, or any of the other signs of peripheral artery disease, you will want to consult with a doctor. Also, you should consider the risk factors of peripheral artery disease.