Having cold legs and feet during winter months may seem normal.

However, if you experience cold or numb limbs year-round, pain in the thigh and calf muscles when walking or climbing stairs or painful cramping in the hips or buttocks, you have classic symptoms of peripheral artery disease.

PAD is the narrowing and hardening of arteries in the limbs, stomach or head due to plaque buildup. It results in reduced blood flow through the body.

Other PAD symptoms include back pain, leg pain as well as nocturnal cramps in the calf.

More than 8 million Americans are affected by the disease today but most do not know it.

“People who experience symptoms are the lucky ones,” said Dr. Joey Ghose, cardiologist and PAD specialist at Liberty Cardiovascular Specialists. “The vast majority of people do not recognize symptoms or are misdiagnosed.”

PAD is a common disease of aging. One in three people over the age of 65, and one in three people over age 50 who are diabetic or have smoked, will develop PAD. An easy and noninvasive ABI test will determine if a person has PAD. During an ABI test, blood pressure is taken simultaneously in the arms and ankles while the person remains fully clothed. Test results are available almost immediately.

Medicare’s “welcome” screenings cover testing for abdominal aneurysm, which is a form of PAD, with an aortic ultrasound. Because PAD remains very much a silent killer, Ghose advises all persons over age 65 to talk with their primary care doctor about whether ABI testing is right for them.

“PAD is also closely associated with coronary artery disease, which often results in stroke or heart attack,” said Ghose. “So if a person has been diagnosed with CAD, he or she should have a conversation with their cardiologist about ABI testing. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.”

While PAD typically has a slow onset, some forms of PAD are time critical. Blockage in a leg artery can cause sudden onset of symptoms, including pain, palor and pulselessness in the limb.

“These symptoms never should be ignored and should be treated immediately,” Ghose said. “If you have questions, talk to your primary care physician.”

— Liberty Hospital

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