Symptoms to know if leg pain signals artery problems


At a presentation on coronary artery disease earlier this year, Abrar Sayeed, MD, discussed the connection between certain types of leg pain that can be helpful in diagnosing peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is considered the equivalent of a coronary artery disease.

When you have pain that is due to too little blood flow – usually during exercise – it is called claudication. Sometimes called intermittent claudication, this condition generally affects the blood vessels in the legs, but claudication can affect the arms, too.

To help evaluate if leg pain is being caused by a blocked artery, look for these symptoms:

Claudication symptoms include:

  • Pain when exercising. You may feel pain or discomfort in your feet, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks, depending on where you might have artery narrowing or damage. Claudication can also occur in your arms, although this is less common.
  • Intermittent pain. Your pain may come and go as you do less-strenuous activities.
  • Pain when at rest. As your condition progresses, you may feel pain in your legs even when you're sitting or lying down.
  • Discolored skin or ulcerations. If blood flow is severely reduced, your toes or fingers may look blue or feel cold to the touch. You may also develop sores on your lower legs, feet, toes, arms or fingers.

If you are having this type of pain, see your primary care provider. It’s important to restore normal blood flow – to heal your body and reduce pain. Left untreated, a vascular problem can lead to serious complications.