10 FACTS About Peripheral Arterial Disease

10 Facts About Peripheral Arterial Disease

10 FACTS About Peripheral Arterial Disease – Part 1

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a vascular issue caused by plaque buildup on the inner walls of the “peripheral” arteries, which include all of the arteries in your body except for your heart (cardiovascular). This plaque buildup results in normal blood flow being slowed down or interrupted due to narrowed arteries or becomes blocked altogether. When blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients to muscles in the legs, is limited or restricted, people will experience PAD symptoms of leg pain or leg cramps. Difficulty walking or other mobile activities due to leg pain is another common indicator of PAD. While PAD is a very common health condition that can be treated successfully, it is a very serious disease that can result in possible limb loss if untreated. In recognition and support of National Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month, which occurs each year in September, we are sharing 10 facts about PAD below.


1. Peripheral Arterial Disease affects over 8 million people in the US

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over eight million Americans are diagnosed with PAD, and it affects both men and women equally. When people with undiagnosed PAD are factored in, it’s estimated that 18 million people in the US suffer from PAD.

2. People over the age of 50 are at higher risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease

People over the age of 50 should pay special attention to the aches and pains in their legs and not just disregard the pain as aging. Many people do not report this problem to their doctor because they feel it is a natural part of aging or due to some other cause. The truth is that pain is not normal at any age; therefore, when you experience pain in your legs, you should talk to your doctor about it.

3. Up to 50% of people with PAD are asymptomatic (have no symptoms)

Many people who have PAD are asymptomatic (do not show symptoms). Noted in the New York Times article, “Millions with Leg Pain Have Peripheral Arterial Disease”, variable symptoms or lack of symptoms present a stumbling block to getting a correct diagnosis of PAD. Published research in the medical journal, Circulation, cites that the discomfort PAD causes “is more often atypical than typical” where patients use various terms to describe symptoms that can be associated indicators of PAD.

4. Peripheral Arterial Disease is 1 of the top 5 most under-diagnosed diseases

The author of the Citation journal article notes “Descriptions such as ‘tired,’ ‘giving way,’ ‘sore,’ and ‘hurts’ are offered more often than ‘cramp’,” by patients and this can challenge an examining physician’s ability to suspect PAD as the cause of a patient’s discomfort.
Because of the high prevalence of asymptomatic disease, and the fact that only a small percentage of PAD patients present with classic claudication, PAD is frequently underdiagnosed and thus undertreated.

What Can Healthcare Providers Do To Diagnose PAD More Effectively?

Doctors and other healthcare providers who have patients that are experiencing leg pain, but who may be using different terms to describe the discomfort should ask the following questions: What’s the most strenuous thing you do in a typical week? Do you do any routine exercise, like walking? Do you get pain when you walk?” How far can you walk before the pain causes you to stop?
If the patient’s answers indicate that they may be experiencing discomfort or pain that could be associated with PAD, then the best thing for the doctor to do is to provide the patient with a referral to a vascular specialist like Maryland Vascular Specialists. Our team of registered vascular technologists, at our certified vascular labs, will conduct a full evaluation of the arteries in their legs with non-invasive testing. Next, one of our elite vascular doctors will go over the test results with the patient. If you are diagnosed with having PAD based on your test results, then one of our vascular providers will discuss treatment options and next steps. Additionally, patients can request an expert consultation with one of our providers at Maryland Vascular Specialists directly if they are experiencing unexplained leg pain or cramping.

5. People with diabetes are more likely to develop PAD

One in every three people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have PAD. PAD is also a major risk factor for lower-extremity amputation, especially in patients with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association advised that in people with diabetes, the risk of PAD is increased by age, duration of diabetes, and presence of peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, ethnic / racial demographics show that African Americans and Hispanics with diabetes have a higher prevalence of PAD than non-Hispanic Caucasians (even after adjustment for other known risk factors and the excess prevalence of diabetes).

Diabetics face a lot of challenges, which require them to make lifestyle changes, dietary changes and to monitor their health consciously and proactively. It’s important that diabetics take special care of their feet and legs to prevent possible infection or limb loss. It is highly recommended that diabetics with PAD be under the care of a vascular specialist.
Do you want to make sure that you receive facts #6 – #10 in the next installment of our 10 Facts About Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) blog series? Be sure to subscribe to our e-newsletter in the right sidebar on this page, or you can simply come back and check our website for part 2 of the series on tomorrow.


If you feel fatigue, leg pain, or cramping in your leg that is brought on by walking but relieved when you rest; experience leg pain while resting; or have wounds on your foot that are slow to heal, do not ignore them as they are common symptoms of PAD. Be sure to contact a vascular specialist (or your primary care physician for a referral) as soon as possible. Click here to schedule an expert consultation at Maryland Vascular Specialists – we have several convenient locations to serve you in Maryland and Pennsylvania.