PAD is caused by the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques in arteries that supply blood to the legs. It mostly affects the legs, but can sometimes appear in the arms. Most people, especially women, don’t have symptoms. But when symptoms do occur, painful muscle cramping in the legs during physical activity like walking is most common. This pain, called intermittent claudication, usually subsides after rest, but people with advanced disease may also feel discomfort in their feet when lying down.

Other PAD symptoms include:

  • Numb, cold or weak legs
  • Slow-to-heal foot sores
  • Changing toenail color and texture
  • Discoloration or hair loss on the legs

It's important to know PAD's risk factors since you can have it and not know it:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Being 50 or older, with risk increasing as you age
  • Being African-American

PAD is most common among minorities, especially African-American women. The condition is twice as common in African-Americans than in Caucasians.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 09 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015