The most common form of peripheral artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis. The arteries most commonly affected are those that carry blood to your legs and pelvis. Lack of blood to these areas causes the symptoms associated with PAD.

Plaque Blocking an Artery

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Calf or thigh pain with exercise is termed claudication. Claudication is an early sign of PAD. The discomfort may consist of cramping, limping, or a feeling of heaviness, weakness, or fatigue in the legs. 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.

Often, symptoms affect one leg. If arteriosclerosis exists in both limbs, the severity is often different from one side to the other.

Other symptoms of PAD include the following:

  • 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, especially the toes
  • Slowed growth of toenails
  • Change of color of the legs or feet
  • Paleness or blueness (cyanosis) of the legs or feet
  • Weak or absent pulse in the extremity
  • Walking abnormalities