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: millsym2k, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: October 03

Last year I noticed pain when walking and it just got worse and worse. There was pain in my right thigh which at first I could walk through. It soon became that I could only walk five minutes before severe pain caused me to stop and rest. The pain was now in my shins and also some calf pain if I pushed, but believe me the pain is so severe I had to rest, but only for a minute and I could then walk another five minutes. I took Trental 400 mg 3 times a day with food. Three days later I could walk pain free. I can walk so far that I now get out of breath before my legs ache. I'm building up my fitness again now I can walk. I used to walk up the stairs and down 4 times a day. I could not do five flights due to pain, but it does help with the breathing and collateral conversion. If you suffer from peripheral arterial disease (PAD), good luck. Trental is wonderful for me.

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Comment from: Rich, 65-74 (Patient) Published: July 17

My symptoms of peripheral vascular disease are very cold feet (especially left) with cramps in my arches and calves when I go to bed. My left hand tends to get very cold also. I have been diagnosed with both CAD/PAD (coronary artery disease/peripheral artery disease) and pulmonary fibrosis.

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