People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD). And individuals with PAD have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
PAD is a condition similar to coronary artery disease (clogged arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle) and carotid artery disease (clogged arteries leading to the brain). However, with PAD, it's the arteries leading to areas outside the brain and heart, most often in the legs and feet, that become clogged. Fatty deposits build up in the inner linings of the artery walls of the legs and hinder blood flow. This condition can lead to pain, especially when walking, as well as a number of other symptoms. In extremely severe cases, limb amputation may be needed.
Why does diabetes increase the risk for developing PAD?
Individuals with diabetes are already at an increase risk for PAD. Add to that any other risk factor listed here, and there's an even greater chance of developing the condition.
- Poor control of blood glucose, or blood sugars that are not within a normal range
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High LDL ("bad") cholesterol
- Family history of cardiovascular disease, stroke or PAD
- Previous history of coronary artery disease (heart attack, angina, angioplasty or bypass surgery) or stroke
Prevention & Treatment of PAD
A number of the risk factors mentioned here can be controlled to minimize the likelihood of developing PAD and to slow its progression. For people with diabetes, it's especially important to keep blood glucose levels as normal as possible. Also, regular physical activity is important, and special footwear and medications may be needed. Learn more about how to prevent and treat PAD. Taking steps to reduce the risk of PAD also helps reduce the chances of a heart attack or stroke while enhancing quality of life.
This content was last reviewed August 2015.