Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is caused by plaque narrowing the arteries in the legs and sometimes the arms. Plaque is an accumulation of cholesterol-rich fatty deposits and proteins. When plaque forms in the artery walls, blood flow is slowed. This reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can be delivered to the muscles.
Healthy arteries are smooth, stretchable blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients (fuel) to the cells of the body. When the blood supply is reduced or stopped, the tissues affected will not get enough oxygen and fuel causing damage to the tissue and eventually the tissue may die.
Common symptoms of peripheral artery disease are:
- Tight discomfort (cramp) in the muscles of the leg(s) when walking, climbing stairs or exercising. The discomfort goes away with rest. This is called intermittent claudication.
- You might also notice a loss of body hair over the affected area.
- A sore that is slow to heal.