Bringing PAD Out from the Shadows


Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) may be off your radar unless you have suffered from pain, numbness, heaviness and aching in your legs and muscles. You may be completely unaware, also, how prevalent PAD is and the five year mortality rate – 64 percent for one in 20 Americans over the age of 50. PAD raises the risk of heart attack, stroke and amputation and develops just like plaque clogs the arteries of the heart, only this happens in your legs. For some, the symptoms of PAD can be debilitating, while others may be living with the condition and not even know it. If you notice you are not able to walk as far or as fast as you used to be able to, don’t brush that off as getting older just yet. If you have PAD, your health care provider can help reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke or amputation, while also improving your quality of life.

Symptoms of PAD

Most people do not experience any symptoms of PAD. For those who do, they may feel pain, numbness, heaviness and aching in their legs and muscles. PAD can also cause cramping when walking or climbing stairs. You may notice this goes away after the activity has stopped and you are resting. Symptoms can also be present during sleep, which may wake you and keep you awake throughout the night. Other indications of PAD would include sores or wounds on the feet and legs, which do not heal quickly or at all. Changes in the color of your feet – paleness and blueness – can be a sign of PAD. If you notice a difference in temperature in one leg compared to another, that can also indicate PAD. Finally, patients with PAD often experience poor nail and hair growth on the leg affected by PAD.

Risk Factors for PAD

PAD is a fairly common condition for anyone over the age of 50. However, there are other risk factors including if you smoke or used to smoke, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, personal history of cardiovascular disease, and race – African Americans are twice as likely to develop PAD compared to Caucasians. You can help reduce your risk of PAD by maintaining a healthy body weight, as well as staying physically active. For some, quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising regularly will successfully treat PAD. If these lifestyle modifications are not enough, you need to talk to your health care provider for a recommendation to a PAD specialist.

Treating PAD

The Vascular Center at Oklahoma Heart Institute provides patients a multidisciplinary, evidence-based and patient-centered approach to vascular disease like PAD. With medical, endovascular (minimally invasive, catheter-based therapies) and surgical management options available, a specialized team coordinates patient care from the initial consultation and non-invasive testing to treatment. The goals of treating PAD include reducing symptoms, reducing complications and improving quality of life. Treatment may range from lifestyle modifications, to treating and managing hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, in addition to medication therapies to reduce the risk of blood clots and reduce pain. Surgical interventions such as bypass grafting, stenting, angioplasty, and atherectomy are also available to more aggressively treat PAD. PAD is not something you want to ignore. Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene, amputation, heart attack or stroke.

If the results of the vascular studies require further specialty care, consultative appointments with an OHI vascular specialist are guaranteed within one week (same or next day if urgent).  Please contact (918) 592-0999 for questions or further details.