5 Major Health Complications Caused by Untreated Peripheral Artery Disease

Sep 01, 2023
5 Major Health Complications Caused by Untreated Peripheral Artery Disease
The peripheries of your body — the arms and legs — can develop problems with blood circulation. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) begins when narrowing reduces the flow of blood. It can result in some serious health complications.

Your bloodstream is an amazing system that supplies energy and raw materials for healing throughout your body. Your health often depends on the efficient flow of oxygenated blood from the heart and lungs. 

The arms and legs, your peripheral appendages, face unique blood flow challenges. The legs in particular remain vulnerable to arterial narrowing and blockages, a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). Over 5% of American women and men have PAD by the time they reach their 60s. 

PAD most often results from the buildup of fatty plaques along artery walls. These plaques are by-products of high cholesterol. At Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Veins, we can diagnose and treat PAD as well as any other vascular issues you may have. 

Left untreated, PAD can produce five major health complications. With a combination of medical care under the supervision of Dr. Enrique Hernandez and lifestyle changes on your part, it’s possible to get PAD under control, reducing the risks to your quality of life. 

How PAD develops

PAD usually starts with atherosclerosis, the medical name for those plaque deposits on artery walls. It’s not, however, the only way arterial blood flow can be impaired. 

An injury to an arm or leg can damage arteries, reducing blood flow. Inflammation in blood vessels is another potential PAD cause, as is inflammation from nearby muscles or ligaments. People who are undergoing radiation treatment could experience reduced artery capacity as well. 

Symptoms of PAD

It’s possible to have PAD without the condition producing any signs or symptoms. One common symptom is leg pain when you’re walking, called claudication. You have pain or muscle cramping when you start to walk or exercise, and these signs ease up when you rest. 

Other PAD symptoms include: 

  • Weak pulse in the feet and legs
  • Coldness in the feet or legs, usually felt on just one side
  • Numbness in the leg
  • Weakness of leg muscles
  • Cramping in calves, hips, or thighs associated with certain activities, like climbing stairs
  • Slow-healing sores on the lower legs
  • Hair loss on the legs
  • Skin of the legs appears shiny, or it may be discolored
  • Toenails may grow more slowly

As PAD progresses, claudication pain may continue even after you start to rest. Symptoms may occur during the night, as you sleep. 

5 major health complications caused by untreated PAD

Chronically impaired blood flow creates associated health complications. 


When blood flow becomes sufficiently low, tissue in your legs begins to die. Amputation may be the only way to stop the spread of necrotic tissue. This is more common with PAD patients who also have diabetes. 

Severe pain

Pain can become chronic and constant, disrupting your quality of life. Pain management becomes increasingly difficult over time. 

Leg ulcers that won’t heal

Slow or non-healing leg ulcers are a symptom of critical limb ischemia, a condition that may lead to amputation. 

Mobility loss

Pain and loss of muscle strength and function could make it increasingly difficult for you to get around. 

Risk of stroke

You’re three times more likely to have a stroke when PAD is left untreated. The risks of heart attack, coronary artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease increase as well. 

Investigate any leg pain or other PAD symptom by booking a consultation with Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Veins in Miami. You can request an appointment online or call our office at 305-707-5688. Dr. Hernandez and his team are standing by.