Peripheral Vascular Disease - Symptoms

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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
Return to Peripheral Vascular Disease

See what others are saying

Comment from: joe1943, 65-74 (Patient) Published: September 18

I was recently told I have PVD. You probably have heard it only hurts when you laugh. Well, in my case, it only hurts when I stand, walk, or when I try to go to sleep. I have already been told there is a good chance that I will lose my left leg and possibly my right also. I try to ride the bike each day to try to get circulation to my feet.

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Comment from: Tammydedwards, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: April 23

I had surgery on both my feet at the same time and the surgery stopped my life because the doctor did too much surgery at one time. I now have peripheral vascular disease in both my feet and have been on bed rest from this disease. When I asked the doctor why my feet are burning and turning purple and black when they are down on the floor or just down, period, the doctor's response was that he did not know why my feet are doing that and that he talked to three or four of the doctors that he works with, and they did not know either. Now I know and I am not going to let this go, I am going to file a law suit against this doctor so that he will not do this to another person. No one should have to live with this pain and have to keep their feet up at all times. Take care and remember this is your life and mine that I am talking about maybe even a family member of yours.

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