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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

The most common symptom of peripheral arterial disease is intermittent claudication pain or cramping in the legs or buttocks that starts when you exercise and goes away when you rest. Often the pain is described as a deep ache, especially in the calf muscle. The pain may extend to the foot or up toward the thigh and buttock. Sometimes, there is just numbness in the leg or a sense that one leg gets tired when you walk. A foot or toes also may feel cold or numb.

If the arteries are severely narrowed, you could experience leg pain at rest, when you are not exercising. If blood flow stops completely (usually because a blood clot forms in the narrowed vessel), parts of the leg may become pale or turn blue, feel stone cold to the touch and eventually develop gangrene.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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