What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and obstructs blood flow to the lower limbs and feet. Patients who develop PAD usually notice hip, leg or calf pain (called "claudication") when walking. This pain occurs because the peripheral arteries are not able to deliver enough blood flow to the surrounding muscles.
Though PAD, by definition, refers to the peripheral arteries, the process of atherosclerosis (the widespread accumulation of arterial plaque) is systemic and affects the entire body. Approximately 40-60% of patients with PAD also suffer from coronary artery disease.
Signs and Symptoms of PAD
- Painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after walking or climbing stairs
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared to the other leg
- Sores on your toes, feet or legs that will not heal (especially a black/discolored toe)
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss on your feet and legs
If undiagnosed and / or untreated, PAD can lead to leg pain while resting or lying down. This pain may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. In more advanced cases, PAD can lead to the development of non-healing ulcers, or open sores that do not heal, as well as injury or infection of your feet and legs, especially if you have diabetes. Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is the extreme state of this condition and can cause tissue death (gangrene), which sometimes requires amputation of the affected limb.