MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Peripheral Arterial Disease

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2021| Content last modified May 2021
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
Get the full details
Topic Resources

What is peripheral arterial disease?

Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your organs and tissues. Peripheral arteries are the arteries in your arms and legs. Peripheral arterial disease is when an artery, usually in your leg, becomes partly or completely blocked. This blockage can occur slowly over many years, or all of a sudden. If blood can't reach parts of your body, the tissue dies from lack of oxygen.

Go to the hospital right away if your arm or leg suddenly becomes painful, cool, and pale. Your artery could be blocked.

What causes peripheral arterial disease?

Peripheral arterial disease can happen when an artery:

What increases the risk of peripheral arterial disease?

What are the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease?

Peripheral arterial disease is rare in the arms. Most often you'll get symptoms only in your legs.

If your artery is getting narrower over time, you'll have:

  • Painful, aching, cramping, or a tired feeling in your leg that happens when you walk and goes away with a short rest (intermittent claudication)

Later on, with more severe narrowing, you may:

  • Be unable to walk as far as you used to

  • Have pain even when resting

  • Have sores on your toes or heel

  • Have skin wounds that take a long time to heal

If your symptoms suddenly get worse, see a doctor right away.

If your artery is suddenly and completely blocked, your arm or leg will be:

  • Very painful

  • Cold

  • Numb

  • Pale

Go to the hospital right away. A large blockage can cause gangrene (death of tissues caused by a lack of blood). If blood is blocked from getting to your arm or leg for too long, your arm or leg may need to be amputated (surgically cut off).

How can doctors tell if I have peripheral arterial disease?

How do doctors treat peripheral arterial disease?

To treat peripheral arterial disease, doctors use:

If the arm or leg has died or there's no way to get blood to it, it may need to be amputated (surgically removed).

Doctors may tell you to:

How can I prevent peripheral arterial disease?

To prevent peripheral arterial disease:

  • Don’t smoke cigarettes

  • Control your blood sugar levels (if you have diabetes)

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • Lose weight

  • Be active and get exercise

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
Others also read
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Test your knowledge
Kidney Infection
Pyelonephritis is an infection that affects one or both kidneys. Which of the following is the most likely cause of this infection?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP