PAD is a progressive condition. Symptoms may not appear until the condition has significantly progressed and complications appear. Over time, PAD may lead to:
Intermittent claudication is the most common symptom of PAD. Claudication is pain that occurs in the thigh, hip, calf, or foot while walking, using stairs, or exercising. The discomfort may consist of cramping, limping, or a feeling of heaviness, weakness, or fatigue. Symptoms of claudication usually begin after walking a certain distance, such as a block or two, and end after resting for the same length each time.
Other possible symptoms of PAD may include:
- Numbness of the legs or feet at rest
- Cold legs or feet
- Muscle pain in the thighs, calves, or feet
- Loss of hair on the lower extremities
- Poorly growing or thick toenails
- Paleness or blueness of the legs or feet
- Weak or absent pulse in the extremity
- Foot wounds that heal slowly
Plaque Blocking an Artery
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In people that have symptoms, PAD may cause:
PAD can lead to severe complications, such as:
- Critical limb ischemia
—Ulcers that are slow to heal because of low or blocked blood flow (ischemia). These ulcers can lead to
gangrene. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue does not get enough oxygen and begins to die. Gangrene can lead to
of the affected limb.
- Functional decline
—As PAD progresses, walking distance decreases, which can affect your quality of life.
- Erectile dysfunction
Hills AJ, Shalhoub J, et al. Peripheral arterial disease. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2009;70(10):560-565.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.
Symptoms and diagnosis of PAD. American Heart Association
website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Symptoms-and-Diagnosis-of-PAD_UCM_301306_Article.jsp. Updated August 16, 2012. Accessed June 23, 2014.
What are the signs and symptoms of peripheral arterial disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/signs.html. Updated June 2, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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