PAD is a disease that gets worse over time. You may not have symptoms until the disease gets much worse. Over time, PAD may lead to:

Intermittent Claudication

This is the most common symptom of PAD. Claudication is pain that occurs in the thigh, hip, calf, or foot. It may happen when you walk, use stairs, or workout. You may have cramping or limping. You may also feel heavy, weak, or tired. Symptoms often begin after walking a certain distance, such as a block or two, and end after you rest for the same amount of time.

Other Symptoms

You may also have:

  • A numb feeling in your legs or feet when you are resting
  • Cold legs or feet
  • Muscle pain in the thighs, calves, or feet
  • Loss of hair on the lower limbs
  • Poorly growing or thick toenails
  • Pale or blue legs or feet
  • Problems walking
  • Foot wounds that heal slowly

Plaque Blocking an Artery

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In people who have symptoms, PAD may cause:


PAD can lead to severe problems, such as:

  • Critical limb ischemia —Ulcers that are slow to heal because of low or blocked blood flow. They can lead to gangrene. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue does not get enough oxygen and begins to die. Gangrene can lead to amputation of the limb.
  • Functional decline —As PAD progresses, you won't be able to walk as far.
  • Erectile dysfunction

Hills AJ, Shalhoub J, et al. Peripheral arterial disease. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2009;70(10):560-565.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 23, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018.

Symptoms and diagnosis of PAD. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated October 31, 2016. Accessed August 30, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 8/29/2018