Do you suffer from muscle cramps in your legs and feet that limit your ability to walk or cramps at night that wake you from sleep? 

Do your legs feel heavy, tired or achy when walking? If these symptoms sound familiar you may be suffering from a common problem known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.  If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is extremely important that this problem not be ignored.

PAD leads to a decrease in blood flow to the legs and feet, which can put you at increased risk for poor healing of cuts or wounds, infection and even amputation. Patient suffering from poor circulation to the feet are also at significantly increased risk for more serious problems, such as heart attack and stroke. Risk factors for the development of PAD include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a family history of circulation problems.

Patients suffering from these symptoms should be examined by a foot and ankle specialist to see if circulation testing is indicated. A simple and painless in office exam known as an ABI is a valuable screening test for most patients.  This involves the use of blood pressure cuffs around the arms and legs to compare the blood pressure in the extremities.

PAD treatment for most patients will center on changes in lifestyle. A regular walking program can improve circulation to the feet and legs. Patients who are smokers must work on quitting as soon as possible. Patients suffering from diabetes must control their blood glucose levels as tightly as possible. Diet modification with avoidance of high fat foods is important, along with controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Medications to improve blood flow and prevent the formation of blood clots can be considered. In severe cases of PAD, referral to a vascular surgeon for further evaluation may be needed.

Patients who suffer from PAD must inspect their feet daily for any cuts, cracks in the skin or sores. A seemingly minor cut can develop in to a major problem for patients with PAD.  If any problems develop, patients should seek immediate care from their foot and ankle specialist.


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