Harvard Heart Letter

PAD It is a pain in the leg

PAD — It's a pain in the leg

Blocked arteries in the legs can be debilitating and dangerous. Be aware of the warning signs.

You're making your daily trip to the mailbox, and your leg is hurting again. While it's easy to dismiss your fleeting discomfort as a sciatica flare-up or a cranky hip joint, that might be a bad idea. Calf or thigh pain while walking that goes away with rest—termed claudication—is the hallmark of peripheral artery disease (PAD). It is often the first indication that cholesterol-laden deposits are building up in the arteries of your legs and feet and blocking blood flow.

Peripheral artery disease

Blood flows freely through a normal artery(A). In PAD, plaque narrows the
arteryand impedes blood flow (B).

Illustration by Scott Leighton

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