Peripheral artery disease: A hidden problem in women, from the Harvard Women's Health Watch

If ever a disease deserved a new name, peripheral artery disease is it. "Peripheral" smacks of something on the sidelines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peripheral artery disease affects at least 12 million Americans, more than heart disease and stroke combined. It kills some, maims others, and makes life disagreeable or unbearable for countless more. The condition is often overlooked or misdiagnosed in women, according to the April 2012 Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Although peripheral artery disease us ually affects the legs, it can also affect the arms. Symptoms include:

  • pain, cramping, or heaviness with exercise or movement that subsides with rest
  • painful, cold, numb, or tingling legs or hands
  • sores on the legs, feet, arms, or hands that don't heal.

Any of these symptoms warrant a closer look. Peripheral artery disease is generally diagnosed with a test called the ankle-brachial index, which compares blood pressure in the arm with blood pressure at the ankle.

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