What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease?

As we pointed out in our previous Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) post, nearly half of people with this condition are unaware of their diagnosis because they experience no symptoms or are unaware that their complaints are due to PAD.  PAD can develop slowly over one’s lifetime so that symptoms may not present until arteries are severely blocked.

One of the major symptoms associated with this disease is referred to as claudication, which involves pain or cramping in the arms or legs during exercise or merely walking.  Every patient is different and some may experience it as heaviness, burning, or numbness.  The pain typically diminishes with rest, and may be severe, depending on the blockage of the artery.  When involving the legs, this symptom occurs most commonly in the calf muscle, but can often involve the buttocks or thighs.  Claudication may occur in one or both legs.  Discomfort is often worse when walking up stairs or uphill.

In severe cases, PAD can also cause symptoms that involve intense pain at rest. This is due to insufficient amounts of blood or oxygen reaching the legs even in the resting state.  Patients may find that they have severe pain at night relieved by hanging the foot down from the bed.

Other symptoms of PAD include:

-       Numbness of the limbs/extremities

-       Sensation of coldness in the legs or feet

-       Ulcers in the toes

-       Redness or discoloration of the skin

-       Foot and toe sore that will not heal

-       Loss of hair on the legs and changes in nail growth

Our next post will discuss which patients and/or candidates should be treated for PAD. If you have questions on the symptoms of PAD, or about this condition in general, please be sure to let me know in the comments.

About Chandan Devireddy, MD:

Dr. Devireddy specializes in Interventional Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine, and has been practicing with Emory since 2005. He actively participates in the Interventional Cardiology research department, which has been a significant enroller in several multi-center clinical trials. His individual research interests include acute coronary syndromes, novel coronary and peripheral technology, and medical and interventional treatment of peripheral vascular diseases.

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