| Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Leg Pain? It May be Peripheral Artery Disease

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

peripheral artery diseasePeripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory problem in the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head. PAD is often caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the artery walls. Plaque can narrow the arteries and reduce the flow of blood to the extremities. Plaque can also break off and cause a stroke.

Although PAD can happen to any peripheral extremity, it tends to be more common in arteries to the legs. The reduced blood flow can cause leg pain or pain in the hips, and sometimes gangrene to the leg, or amputation.

Some people with PAD experience mild symptoms or don’t have any at all. For people that do have symptoms, the most common include:

  • Leg pain, commonly in the calf, when walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication)
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot
  • Wounds on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal or heal very slowly
  • A change in the color of your legs

There are a number of ways to diagnose PAD. Your doctor will usually start with a physical examination to check for weak pulses in the legs. If PAD is suspected, your doctor may want to order additional testing, such as an ankle-brachial index, ultrasound, CT scan or some other painless, non-invasive procedure.

There are some high risk factors for PAD that you may not have much control over, like age or a personal or family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stroke. However, there are some risk factors that you can do something about. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Uncontrolled diabetes and blood sugar levels

People who smoke or have diabetes are at especially high risk for PAD.1

Many times PAD can be managed by making lifestyle changes, so you should do what you can to live a healthy lifestyle. If a healthy lifestyle still isn’t enough to keep PAD under control, your doctor may prescribe medication. If your PAD is severe, you may need to undergo angioplasty or surgery.

If you’re at high risk for peripheral artery disease or if you have symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor or bring it up at your next Annual Wellness Visit, covered by Medicare Part B.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): The Mayo Clinic

About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): American Heart Association

Medicare Made Clear: MedicareMadeClear.com

1 About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): American Heart Association, August 5, 2014

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