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The Role of Diabetes in Peripheral Artery Disease: A Comprehensive Analysis

8 months ago

5199  0
Posted on Aug 15, 2023, 3 p.m.

Part 8 of an 8-article series written by Arlette Pacheco, Ph.D.  

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a prevalent vascular condition affecting millions worldwide. It involves the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels outside the heart and brain, leading to reduced blood flow to the limbs. One significant risk factor for PAD is diabetes, a disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels. This article explores the intricate relationship between diabetes and PAD and how they interconnect.

Understanding Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

What is Peripheral Artery Disease PAD?

PAD(1) is a condition that develops when fatty deposits (called plaque) build up on the inner walls of the arteries. These plaques narrow the blood vessels and obstruct normal blood flow. PAD symptoms may vary, but common signs include:

- Leg pain

- Cramps

- Difficulty walking

- Numbness or weakness in the legs

- Slow-healing sores on the feet

- Changes in skin color on the legs or feet

Risk factors

The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque accumulates in the arteries. Several factors(2) contribute to the development of PAD, including:

- Obesity

- Smoking

- High blood pressure

- High cholesterol levels

- Family history of PAD

- Sedentary lifestyle

- Diabetes

Individuals diagnosed with PAD should be aware of the importance of seeking appropriate support from a healthcare professional, including an interventional radiologist in El Paso. Specialized medical experts play a significant role in diagnosing and managing PAD.

Diabetes and its Connection to Peripheral Artery Disease

Explaining Diabetes

Diabetes(3) is a chronic medical condition that occurs either when:

- The body doesn't produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes)

- The body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (Type 2 diabetes)

Insulin regulates blood sugar levels, facilitating glucose absorption into cells for energy.

The Link Between Diabetes and PAD

Diabetes significantly impacts cardiovascular health. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to complications, including PAD. Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of atherosclerosis and accelerates plaque formation in the arteries. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels create a conducive environment for inflammation and plaque formation in the arteries. This promotes the narrowing of blood vessels, reducing blood flow, and exacerbating PAD symptoms.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing PAD(4), leading to the term Diabetic Peripheral Artery Disease (DPAD). The combination of diabetes and PAD can lead to severe consequences and must be effectively managed.

Diagnosis of PAD in Diabetic Patients

Early detection of PAD in diabetic patients is crucial to preventing it. Timely diagnosis allows for the implementation of appropriate management strategies.

Non-invasive Tests for PAD

Several non-invasive tests(5) help diagnose PAD in diabetic patients. These include:

- Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test

- Doppler ultrasound

- Angiography

Managing Peripheral Artery Disease with Diabetes

Many lifestyle changes can improve the lives of diabetic patients with PAD. Some of them are the following:

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle modifications can manage both diabetes and PAD. Implementing the following lifestyle changes can significantly improve your vascular health:

- Eat a healthy diet

- Maintain a healthy weight

- Smoke cessation

- Regular walking(6)

Medication and Treatment Options

Medications(7) may be prescribed to manage diabetes and alleviate PAD symptoms. Some common medications are:

- Antiplatelet drugs

- Statins

- Medications to control blood sugar levels

Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular exercise helps improve blood flow, reduce symptoms, and enhance your cardiovascular health. However, diabetic patients with PAD should consult their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

Blood Sugar Control

Strict blood sugar control is essential to reduce the risk of complications. Controlling blood sugar levels can slow the progression of PAD in diabetic patients.

Blood Pressure Management

Maintaining healthy blood pressure(8) is crucial for preventing further damage to blood vessels. Adequate blood pressure helps reduce the risk of complications.

When to Seek Medical Help

Diabetic patients should be vigilant about any new or worsening symptoms. If you notice the signs of PAD, consult an interventional specialist as soon as possible. Regular check-ups can help monitor diabetes and PAD. Remember that prompt diagnosis and treatment reduces potential complications.


The relationship between diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease is complex and significant. Diabetic patients should be aware of their increased risk for PAD and take proactive steps to manage both conditions. Lifestyle changes and regular medical check-ups improved outcomes for patients facing the challenges of diabetes-related PAD.


This article was written for WHN by Arlette Pacheco who is a content writer who pursued a passion for Biology, earning a Ph.D. in Life Sciences. She discovered her love for writing, crafting scientific and divulgation articles, and bridging the gap between science and society.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Content may be edited for style and length.

References/Sources/Materials provided by:




4 Thiruvoipati T, Kielhorn CE, Armstrong EJ. Peripheral artery disease in patients with diabetes: Epidemiology, mechanisms, and outcomes. World J Diabetes. 2015 Jul 10;6(7):961-9. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v6.i7.961. PMID: 26185603; PMCID: PMC4499529.

5 Mittleider D. Noninvasive Arterial Testing: What and When to Use. Semin Intervent Radiol. 2018 Dec;35(5):384-392. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1676328. Epub 2019 Feb 5. PMID: 30728654; PMCID: PMC6363559.



8 Itoga NK, Tawfik DS, Lee CK, Maruyama S, Leeper NJ, Chang TI. Association of Blood Pressure Measurements With Peripheral Artery Disease Events. Circulation. 2018 Oct 23;138(17):1805-1814. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.033348. PMID: 29930023; PMCID: PMC6202170.

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