FRIDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Depressed people may be at higher risk for the debilitating circulatory condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), a new study suggests.
PAD is due to a narrowing of the arteries in the legs and pelvis. It was known that depression is a risk factor for the constriction of heart arteries, but its link with PAD specifically was unclear.
In this study, researchers led by Marlene Grenon of the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center examined data on more than a thousand men and women who were followed for about seven years.
At the start of the study, PAD was present in 12 percent of the participants with depression and in 7 percent of those without depression. During the seven-year follow-up, PAD-related events occurred in 9 percent of participants with depression and in 6 percent of those without depression, the researchers said.
One expert wasn't surprised by the findings.
"The study reminds us of the importance of screening all patients for signs and symptoms of depression," said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Aggressive treatment of depression can improve modifiable risk factors and decrease the development of both coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease," he added.
Still, Phillips said more study may be needed to clarify the relationship between depression and PAD.
"We know that there are multiple risk factors for developing PAD such as tobacco use and high blood pressure. These were not excluded in the analysis, so we cannot tell at this point if the fact the person has depression was independently associated with PAD or if the increased likelihood of PAD was from all of the other risk factors listed," he noted.
The study was to be presented Friday at an American Heart Association meeting in Chicago.
Cramping, fatigue or pain in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs are the most common symptoms of PAD. The pain typically goes away with rest and returns when you walk again, according to information on the heart association website.
According to the heart association, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are risk factors for PAD, and people who smoke or have diabetes are at especially high risk for the condition. People with PAD also have a four to five times higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
Many people with PAD mistake the symptoms for something else and PAD often goes undiagnosed by doctors. Left untreated, the condition can even lead to gangrene and amputation, the heart association notes.
However, PAD is easily and painlessly diagnosed and most cases of PAD can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication, the experts said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about peripheral artery disease.