Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD, Peripheral Artery Disease, Peripheral Arterial Disease, PAD)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

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What are the symptoms and signs of peripheral artery disease?

Approximately half of people with peripheral artery disease do not experience any symptoms. For patients with symptoms, the most common symptoms are intermittent claudication and rest pain.

  • Intermittent claudication refers to arm or leg pain or cramping in the arms or legs that occurs with exercise and subsides with rest. The severity and location of the pain of intermittent claudication vary depending upon the location and extent of blockage of the involved artery. The most common location of intermittent claudication is the calf muscle of the leg, leading to leg pain while walking. The pain in the calf muscle occurs only during exercise such as walking, and the pain steadily increases with continued walking until the patient has to stop due to intolerable pain. Then the pain quickly subsides during rest. Intermittent claudication can affect one or both legs.
  • Rest pain occurs when the artery occlusion is so critical that there is not enough blood and oxygen supply to the lower extremities even at rest and represents a more serious form of the condition. The pain typically affects the feet, is usually severe, and occurs at night when the patient assumes a supine position (lying down, face up).

Other symptoms and signs of peripheral artery disease include:

  • Numbness of the extremities
  • Weakness and atrophy (diminished size and strength) of the calf muscle
  • A feeling of coldness in the legs or feet
  • Changes in color of the feet; feet turn pale when they are elevated, and turn dusky red in dependent position
  • Hair loss over the dorsum of the feet and thickening of the toenails
  • Painful ulcers and/or gangrene in tissue where there is critical ischemia; typically in the toes
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2015

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