Peripheral artery disease illustration.

Facts About Peripheral Artery Disease and Erectile Dysfunction

Compromised blood flow can lead to both erectile dysfunction and peripheral artery disease. Healthy lifestyle modifications can at the very least stabilize these conditions and may be able to reverse some of their symptoms in cases that are not too advanced.

 Peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which blood flow to the legs is diminished, and erectile dysfunction have at least two major things in common.

First, both PAD and the vast majority of male impotence are attributable to insufficient blood flow — mostly to the legs in the case of PAD and to the penis in ED.

Second, both of these conditions, as serious as they are in and of themselves, significantly increase the risk that those suffering from them will eventually experience a heart attack or stroke.

Similar Risk Factors

Medical conditions that are precursors to the development of both PAD and erectile function include elevated blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease, or CAD. Smoking can also interfere with optimal blood flow throughout the body.

One of the most common consequences of CAD and elevated cholesterol levels is a gradual buildup of fatty plaques on the inner walls of arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. As this accumulation of plaque increases, blood flow through the affected arteries is compromised.

What Atherosclerosis Does

In the case of arteries that supply the lower half of the body, including both the legs and male genitals, atherosclerosis, if left untreated, can over time decrease blood flow to the point that normal function in both the legs and genitals is affected.

According to, the symptoms of PAD typically include one or more of the following:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or both of your legs
  • Cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs, or calf muscles, particularly after exertion such as walking or climbing
  • Coldness in one of your lower legs or feet, particularly when compared with your other leg or foot
  • Sores on your feet, legs, or toes that won’t heal
  • A change in the color of one or both your legs and/or feet
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on one or both legs
  • The absence or sharp diminution of a pulse in your legs or feet

ED Develops Gradually

Erectile dysfunction, as most readers of this blog are well aware, is the inability to achieve and sustain an erection suitable for intercourse. As with most disease processes, ED usually doesn’t suddenly appear full blown but develops gradually, causing increasing difficulty in getting and keeping an erection.

Fortunately, those diagnosed with either or both of these conditions need not sit idly by, simply waiting for matters to get worse. If you suspect that you might be suffering from either of these conditions, it’s important that you consult your doctor who can order tests to properly diagnose your problem.

If these conditions are caught relatively early, you may be able to stop or even reverse the disease process by making meaningful changes in your lifestyle. Eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, shedding excess pounds, quitting smoking, and managing underlying illnesses that can cause both ED and PAD can help to minimize your symptoms.

ED Drugs Ease PAD Symptoms

Interestingly, some of the medications used to treat ED have been shown to reduce the symptoms of PAD. In 2013, the Scottish Medical Journal documented the case of a 57-year-old man suffering from both PAD and ED. Because of his ED and elevated cholesterol levels, he’d been prescribed sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, and simvastatin, a drug designed to lower cholesterol levels. On the mornings he took sildenafil, the man found that he could walk farther with little or no discomfort or cramping in his legs.

As with all the PDE5 inhibitor drugs prescribed for ED, sildenafil temporarily improves blood flow to the penis and apparently to other parts of the body as well.

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+