Diabetes-Related Peripheral Artery Disease

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Filed Under: Diabetes Complications, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Diabetes-Related Peripheral Artery Disease

Learn about this diabetes complication that causes leg pain and other symptoms

About one-third of people over the age of 50 with type 2 diabetes also have peripheral artery disease (PAD), which occurs when blood vessels in the legs narrow or stiffen due to the accumulation of plaque. This causes decreased blood flow to the legs, which leads to:

  • Leg pain, particularly when walking or exercising (called intermittent claudication)
  • Numbness and/or coldness in the lower legs or feet
  • Sores or ulcers on the feet or legs that are slow to heal
  • Pain in the feet or toes at night

However, many people don’t have symptoms at all, and others who do have symptoms often think they are signs that they’re simply tired or getting older. For these reasons, diagnosis and treatment are often delayed. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to tell your doctor. This is particularly important because people with PAD and diabetes also have an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

PAD Risk Factors

Just having diabetes puts you at risk for PAD, but your risk increases even more if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Are overweight and not physically active
  • Are over 50
  • Have a personal or family history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke

You obviously can't change your age or family history, but the other risk factors are firmly within your control.

Learn more about PAD, including the treatment protocol I recommend.

More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Diabetes Complications

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