PAD Facts & Fiction

Test your knowledge and understand what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Fiction. Left untreated, PAD can lead to serious complications that may result in the amputation of a limb. People with PAD also have a high risk of heart attack and stroke, both of which can be life threatening. Learn more about PAD.

Fiction. If you experience leg pain and have any risk factors for PAD, you should see your healthcare professional and get tested for PAD. The pain you are experiencing may be caused by blocked arteries cutting off oxygen to your muscles. The most serious complication of these blockages is amputation. People with PAD also have a high risk of stroke or heart attack, which can be life threatening. It’s also important to note that leg pain associated with PAD is not the same as leg pain due to diabetes, which is the result of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar.

Fact. It is common for people with PAD to also have coronary artery disease, or CAD. Not only do PAD and CAD share similar risk factors, they are both the end result of atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up inside arteries that supply nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to the body. In CAD, this plaque buildup occurs in arteries that supply blood to the heart, which can lead to a life‑threatening heart attack or stroke. People who have both PAD and CAD have an even higher risk for these events than people with PAD or CAD alone, so it’s important to ask your doctor about getting screened for CAD.

Fiction. PAD can be what’s called asymptomatic, meaning there are no noticeable symptoms. But that doesn’t mean there is less cause for concern. If you have been diagnosed with PAD, it’s still important to take it seriously and follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations to manage your risk factors. PAD is a progressive disease, and plaque will continue to build up in your arteries unless you take steps to slow its progression.

Fact. You can reap the benefits of quitting the moment you stop. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you have smoked, or how much you have smoked. Studies show that one year after quitting, your risk for CAD drops by about 50%. 15 years after quitting, your risk is the same as someone who has never smoked.

Fiction. While these procedures can relieve pain and also be lifesaving, they do not address the underlying cause of plaque buildup in your arteries. Atherosclerosis, the progressive disease that leads to PAD, cannot be cured. However, lifestyle changes and medication can help slow the progression of PAD and reduce your risk for serious blockages in your limbs, heart attack, and stroke.

Fiction. Warfarin is a blood thinner prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots in people with certain health conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), and atrial fibrillation (AFib). While it’s also true that it may be prescribed to people who have just had a heart attack, warfarin is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce the risk of blood clot–related events like heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death in people with PAD.