September is National PAD Awareness Month. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a medical condition caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to different parts of the body including the head, organs, and limbs.

Atherosclerosis is a term used to describe the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque buildup, which is made up of cholesterol, fat, fibrous tissue, calcium, and other substances in the blood, can narrow the opening of the arteries. It reduces the blood flow and the supply of oxygen to the cells. Although PAD can affect any artery, it usually affects the arteries of the legs.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Many people with PAD have no or mild signs and symptoms of the disease. Although some do suffer from claudication. It’s a form of muscle pain or cramping in the affected extremity, usually triggered by physical activity. The pain or cramping usually subsides after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged artery. In the case of PAD, the calf is the most common location.

Other symptoms associated with PAD include leg numbness or weakness, change in the color of the legs, a distinct temperature difference between the legs or feet (one leg or foot is colder), sores in the lower extremities that won’t heal, and weak pulse in the legs or feet.

Who is at risk?

People who are obese and those with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of PAD or heart disease are at high risk of developing the condition. Smoking also increases one’s risk of developing PAD.

When to see a doctor?

PAD is a serious condition. When left unmanaged, it can lead to limb tissue death (which often lead to amputation), stroke, and heart attack.

If you’re over the age of 50 and suffering from leg pain or numbness, it may be time to seek medical attention. Don’t dismiss these symptoms as normal part of aging. Early detection and treatment of peripheral arterial disease can help improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the risk of amputation.

Premier Surgical in Knoxville’s experienced vascular surgeons can assess and diagnose your condition to determine whether or not you have PAD. If you’re diabetic, a smoker, and experiencing leg pain, swelling, and foot wounds that won’t heal, consider making an appointment with one of Premier Surgical’s vascular surgeons. Early detection and treatment of PAD can save your leg and your life.