MSD Manual

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Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral Arterial Disease

    The cardiovascular system comprises the heart, blood vessels, and blood. Blood has many functions including transporting oxygen, nutrients, and hormones throughout the body. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that also circulates in the bloodstream.

    Atherosclerosis is the formation of yellowish plaques of cholesterol and other fats, called lipids, along the arteries. The plaque can build up over time, causing hardening and narrowing of the otherwise smooth artery walls. When this occurs in the arms or legs, it is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD).

    A partial blockage in an artery of the leg can lead to leg pain and cramping. The location of the pain depends upon the location of the blocked artery, with calf pain being the most common.

    These leg symptoms are called intermittent claudication, and they can also be linked with smoking or diabetes. Some lifestyle treatment options include quitting smoking and exercising. A doctor or healthcare professional can recommend ways to treat peripheral artery disease.