While many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms, some people have leg pain when walking (intermittent claudication).
Intermittent claudication symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that's triggered by activity, such as walking, but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common location.
The severity of intermittent claudication varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe intermittent claudication can make it hard for you to walk or do other types of physical activity.
Peripheral artery disease symptoms include:
- Painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after activity, such as walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication)
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won't heal
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
- Slower growth of your toenails
- Shiny skin on your legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
If peripheral artery disease progresses, pain may even occur when you're at rest or when you're lying down (ischemic rest pain). It may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Hanging your legs over the edge of your bed or walking around your room may temporarily relieve the pain.
When to see a doctor
If you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms, don't dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Call your doctor and make an appointment.
Even if you don't have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, you may need to be screened if you are:
June 22, 2012
- Over age 70
- Over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
- Under age 50, but have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure
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- Peripheral artery disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Mohler III ER. Clinical features, diagnosis, and natural history of lower extremity peripheral arterial disease. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-PAD_UCM_301308_Article.jsp. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Hirsch AT, et al. ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006;47:e1.
- Rooke TW, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Circulation. 2011;124:2020.
- Kuller LH. Does ginkgo biloba reduce the risk of cardiovascular events? Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2010;3:41.