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Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is narrowing or blockage of arteries in your arms and legs.
The most common cause of PAD is the buildup of plaque on the inside of arteries. Plaque is made of extra cholesterol, calcium, and other material in your blood. Over time, plaque builds up along the inner walls of the arteries, including those that supply blood to your legs. This buildup leads to poor blood flow.
This information focuses on peripheral arterial disease of the legs, the area where it is most common.
When you have PAD of the legs and you walk or exercise, your leg muscles may not get enough blood. This may cause symptoms, such as leg pain during exercise.
Peripheral arterial disease is also called peripheral vascular disease.
Many people who have PAD do not have any symptoms. But if you have symptoms, you may have weak or tired legs, difficulty walking or balancing, or pain. If you have pain, you might feel a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in the calf, thigh, or buttock. This pain usually happens after you have walked a certain distance. The pain goes away if you stop walking. This pain is called intermittent claudication.
If PAD gets worse, you may have other symptoms that are caused by poor blood flow to your legs and feet. You may have:
Your doctor may suggest ways to relieve symptoms and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. These may include:
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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