Pad Symptoms Leg Pain Numbness And Stiffness

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, over half of people who live with peripheral artery disease have no noticeable symptoms (2008). Those who do develop PAD symptoms often mistake the signs of peripheral artery disease for other conditions.

Intermittent Claudication and PAD

Of all PAD symptoms, leg pain is the most prevalent. Peripheral artery disease causes pain or discomfort in the calves, thighs and hips when exercising, climbing stairs or walking. Exercise-related pain can also affect the arms, but leg pain is more common.

PAD pain is known medically as intermittent claudication. When muscles are active they require more blood than at rest. Plaque build-up and arterial narrowing caused by PAD prevents active muscles from receiving sufficient blood. Muscle cramps and pain result. Pain ranges in severity from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating.

In most cases rest alleviates painful PAD symptoms, but leg pain may persist during rest and inactivity if blockages are severe. Pain during rest can disrupt sleep.

Other PAD Symptoms

Leg pain is only one symptom of peripheral artery disease. Other symptoms of PAD include:

  • Changes in leg color
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Foot and toe wounds that either don’t heal or heal slowly
  • Hair loss or slow hair growth on the affected limb
  • Infection and gangrene
  • Lower temperature in the affected limb than other parts of the body
  • Numbness or weakness in the affected limb
  • Skinny shins
  • Slow toenail growth
  • Weak or undetectable pulse in legs or feet.

Mistaking PAD Symptoms for Other Conditions

Peripheral artery disease is often dismissed by people who experience PAD symptoms. Leg pain and stiffness is often seen as a sign of age. Men experiencing erectile dysfunction may also mistakenly assume the condition is an unavoidable aspect of aging. Neither assumption is true.

Symptoms of PAD can be confused with arthritis. Pain caused by arthritis, however, occurs in the joints, while PAD symptoms cause muscular pain.

People with diabetes may mistake PAD symptoms for a common diabetes complication known as diabetic neuropathy. Caused by nerve damage, neuropathy causes a painful burning sensation in the thighs and feet. Slow healing or numbness caused by peripheral artery disease could also be mistaken for diabetes complications.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for peripheral artery disease. People with diabetes should report all possible PAD symptoms to their doctor.


American Heart Association. (2011). Symptoms and diagnosis of PAD. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

Cleveland Clinic. (2011). PAD warning signs. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Peripheral artery disease (PAD). Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2008). What is peripheral arterial disease? Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

Weiss, B. (2010). Peripheral arterial disease. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from