Leg pain while walking or climbing stairs may be a sign of a serious condition known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.\nMost people who suffer from PAD are unaware they have the disease. That is a major problem because untreated PAD can not only make walking difficult but may increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, gangrene, leg amputation, and even death.\nPAD occurs when plaque clogs leg arteries or vessels and restricts blood flow. Eventually, the restricted flow causes discomfort, called claudication, while walking or exercising. It\u2019s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of PAD and visit your doctor to receive an early diagnosis. Proper treatment for this disease is extremely important and symptoms should not be ignored.\nRecognize the Warning Signs\nThe most common symptom of PAD is pain in your leg muscles \u2014 not your joints \u2014 when you walk, climb stairs, or exercise, that goes away when you rest.\nOther symptoms\n\nPain and\/or cramping in legs and hips\nNumbness and tingling in the lower legs or feet\nMarked decrease in temperature of lower leg or foot, particularly compared to your other leg or the rest of your body\nSores or wounds on toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all\nColor changes of the skin of your feet, including paleness or blueness\nPoor nail growth and decreased hair growth on toes and legs\nBurning or aching in feet or toes while resting\nLeg weakness\n\nIf you experience any kind of recurring leg pain, speak with your family doctor and describe the pain as accurately as you can.\nIdentify the Problem\nWhile everyone knows how important it is to treat and prevent heart disease, most are not aware of the seriousness of PAD.\nIf your leg arteries are clogged, it\u2019s quite possible that other blood vessels around your heart and brain may be as well. People with PAD are more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people without PAD.\nFortunately, PAD can be easily diagnosed, and effective treatment will significantly reduce or eliminate the risks of severe complications.\nThe ankle-brachial index (ABI), a painless test in which blood pressure is measured in the legs and arms to determine how well your blood is flowing, is the most common test for PAD. When an ABI reveals an abnormal ratio between the two blood pressures, additional testing may be required.\nDepending on the results of the ABI, noninvasive imaging techniques, such as a CTA or MRA, may be used to determine the location of the blockage.\nFind the Solution\nMost PAD cases can be managed with lifestyle changes \u2014 smoking cessation, diet, a dedicated walking or exercise program, and\/or medication. In some cases, other treatment may be necessary to open an artery.\nSome minimally invasive percutaneous treatments for PAD include:\n\nAngioplasty\nStenting\nCryoplasty and Atherectomy\n\nAt times, patients need a surgical bypass procedure, which involves taking a vein from another part of the body or using a synthetic bypass graft to create a detour around the blocked artery.\nSometimes a combination of procedures is appropriate. The decision on which treatment to use depends on the location and severity of the plaque, the condition of the arteries around the plaque, and the age and overall health of the patient.\nAre You at Risk?\nThose with the highest risk for developing PAD are people who:\n\nAre older than 50\nUse tobacco\nAre diabetic\nHave high blood pressure\nHave high cholesterol\nAre overweight\nAre physically inactive\nHave a family history of PAD or other cardiovascular diseases\n\nThe more risk factors that apply to you, the more important it is to talk with your family doctor, get screened for PAD, and reduce your risk for heart attack or stroke.\nIf you think that you or a loved one may have PAD, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and schedule an appointment to speak with an expert today.