High cholesterol: Numbness or weakness in the leg may indicate peripheral arterial disease

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PAD is a form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) because it affects the blood vessels, explains the NHS. The health body says many people with PAD have no symptoms. Some people experience numbness or weakness in the leg, and some develop a painful ache in their legs when they walk, which is known as “intermittent claudication”.

The NHS says: “The pain can range from mild to severe, and usually goes away after a few minutes when you rest your legs.”

Both legs are often affected at the same time, although the pain may be worse in one leg, according to the health body.

Other symptoms of PAD can include:

  • Hair loss on your legs and feet
  • Brittle, slow-growing toenails
  • Ulcers (open sores) on your feet and legs, which do not heal
  • Changing skin colour on your legs, such as turning pale or blue
  • Shiny skin
  • In men, erectile dysfunction
  • The muscles in your legs shrinking (wasting)

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The health body says: “The symptoms of PAD often develop slowly, over time. If your symptoms develop quickly, or get suddenly worse, it could be a sign of a serious problem requiring immediate treatment.”

The CDC says: “If you have symptoms of PAD, your doctor may do an ankle brachial index (ABI), which is a noninvasive test that measures the blood pressure in the ankles and compares it with the blood pressure in the arms at rest and after exercise.

“Your doctor may also do imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomographic (CT) angiography.”

It says your doctor may recommend that you take aspirin or other similar antiplatelet medicines to prevent serious complications from PAD and associated atherosclerosis.

Heart UK warns: “If you have cramping, tingling or weakness in your legs, you might have peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD. PAD can lead to leg or foot amputation and even heart attack or stroke.”

The NHS says there are certain things that can increase your chances of developing PAD and other forms of CVD, including:

  • Smoking – the most significant risk factor
  • Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Growing older

The Mayo Clinic says if you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms, don’t dismiss them as a normal part of ageing.

It says call your doctor and make an appointment. Even if you don’t have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, you may need to be screened.

For example, if you are over age 65, over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking, or are under age 50 and have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure.

It states: “People who smoke or have diabetes have the greatest risk of developing peripheral artery disease due to reduced blood flow.”

The organisation says if your peripheral artery disease is caused by a build-up of plaque in your blood vessels, you’re also at risk of developing:

  • Critical limb ischemia. This condition begins as open sores that don’t heal, an injury, or an infection of your feet or legs. Critical limb ischemia occurs when the injuries or infections progress and cause tissue death, sometimes requiring amputation of the affected limb.
  • Stroke and heart attack. The atherosclerosis that causes the signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease isn’t limited to your legs. Fat deposits also build up in arteries supplying blood to your heart and brain.

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