Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Does leg pain slow you down?

Peripheral arterial disease — or PAD — could be the cause. Watch this short video to learn more, and take a screening assessment of your risk for PAD.

Woman wearing a yellow shirt sitting outside and looking into the distance

What is PAD?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. PAD describes blocked arteries outside of the heart. It is a buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries, which limits or stops the flow of blood to your limbs. PAD is most commonly seen in the legs.

  1. Superficial femoral artery
  2. Popliteal artery
  3. Tibial artery

Could PAD be the cause of your discomfort? 

Illustration of the lower legs showing common locations for peripheral arterial disease using blue and red blood vessels

How does PAD impact health?

If blood cannot reach your feet, it may cause pain while walking, and cause damage to the skin and muscles in your legs and feet. PAD also puts you at greater risk of stroke or heart attack.1,2

PAD statistics

  • 12 million people in the United States have PAD.3
  • About 95% have at least one other chronic disease.4
  • About 50% remain untreated and risk amputation.5


Up to 50% have no recognized symptoms and may progress right to severe disease.1,4

Symptoms and risk factors

The following symptoms are often ignored or assumed to be part of the aging process6-8:

  • Cramping or pain in legs when active
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in your legs
  • A cold foot that is pale or changes color
  • A sore or ulcer on your foot that causes concern

These risk factors increase the chance you could have or develop PAD:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • History of heart attack or stroke
  • History of smoking
  • Age over 50

What to do if you are at risk

Take action.

Have your doctor check your feet for signs of PAD. If PAD is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist for further assessment.

Your doctor may look for:

  • Skin changes such as wounds, sores, or discoloration
  • Temperature variation in one leg compared to the other
  • Pulse in your legs and feet to check for sufficient blood flow
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI), comparing blood pressure in the arm and leg
  • Doppler ultrasound to check for narrowed or blocked arteries

How PAD is treated

The goal with PAD treatment is to return the flow of blood to the legs and feet. Your doctor will determine what treatment options are best for you.

Artery before and after treatment

Illustration of blocked artery with PAD before treatment showing obstruction of blood flow and after with no obstruction

Treatments can include:

  • Lifestyle changes — Including dietary changes, exercise programs, blood sugar control, and smoking cessation
  • Medication — Often used to manage your symptoms and risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure to reduce plaque buildup
  • Endovascular treatment — This is a procedure done through a catheter placed in the leg. Different devices are used to treat or remove the plaque or expand the artery.
  • Surgical bypass — A surgical procedure using healthy blood vessels to bypass the blocked artery
  • Amputation — Untreated PAD or late diagnosis can result in the need for removal of the diseased portion of the foot or leg

Glossary of related terms

  • Amputation: Removal of a diseased portion of the body, such as a foot or leg.
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI): A measurement of the difference in the blood pressure of the arm compared to the ankle. It is a way to measure the amount of blood flow to a limb.
  • Arteries: Blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart and through the body.
  • Diagnosis: Identifying a disease by looking at its signs and symptoms.
  • Doppler ultrasound: Ultrasound that measures blood flow in arteries and veins. Ultrasound uses sound and vibration to create an image.
  • Endovascular treatment: A procedure done through a catheter (a small tube) placed in a blood vessel. Different devices are used to treat or remove plaque (a fatty deposit) or expand the blood vessel, improving blood flow to the limb.
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): A term used to describe blocked arteries outside of the heart. It is a buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries, which limits or stops the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your limbs.
  • Surgical bypass: A surgical procedure using healthy blood vessels or grafts to bypass — or go around — the blocked artery and improve blood flow to a limb.



Hirsch AT, Murphy TP, Lovell MB, et al. Gaps in public knowledge of peripheral arterial disease: the first national PAD public awareness survey. Circulation. October 30, 2007;116(18):2086–2094.


Hussein AA, Uno K, Wolski K, et al. Peripheral arterial disease and progression of coronary atherosclerosis. J Am Coll Cardiol. March 8, 2011;57(10):1220–1225.


Goodney PP, Tarulli M, Faerber AE, Schanzer A, Zwolak RM. Fifteen-year trends in lower limb amputation, revascularization, and preventive measures among Medicare patients. JAMA Surg. January 2015;150(1):84–86.


Nehler MR, Duval S, Diao L, et al. Epidemiology of peripheral arterial disease and critical limb ischemia in an insured national population. J Vasc Surg. September 2014;60(3):686–695.e2.


Goodney PP, Travis LL, Nallamothu BK, et al. Variation in the use of lower extremity vascular procedures for critical limb ischemia. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. January 2012;5(1):94–102.


Falluji N, Mukherjee D. Critical and acute limb ischemia: an overview. Angiology. February 2014;65(2):137–146.


Peripheral artery disease (PAD). Mayo Clinic. Available at: Accessed February 22, 2022.


McDermott MM, Guralnik JM, Ferrucci L, et al. Asymptomatic peripheral arterial disease is associated with more adverse lower extremity characteristics than intermittent claudication. Circulation. May 13, 2008;117(19):2484–2491.