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The most common cause of peripheral artery disease (PAD) is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up in your arteries. The exact cause of atherosclerosis isn't known.
The disease may start if certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include:
When damage occurs, your body starts a healing process. The healing may cause plaque to build up where the arteries are damaged.
Eventually, a section of plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot to form at the site. The buildup of plaque or blood clots can severely narrow or block the arteries and limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your body.
Many people who have peripheral artery disease don't have any signs or symptoms.
Even if you don't have signs or symptoms, ask your doctor whether you should get checked for PAD if you're:
People who have PAD may have symptoms when walking or climbing stairs, which may include pain, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the leg muscles. Symptoms also may include cramping in the affected leg(s) and in the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. Symptoms may ease after resting. These symptoms are called intermittent claudication.
During physical activity, your muscles need increased blood flow. If your blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, your muscles won't get enough blood, which will lead to symptoms. When resting, the muscles need less blood flow, so the symptoms will go away.
Other signs and symptoms of PAD include:
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Patients should call 1.855.922.9567 for a referral to a physician on Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano medical staff that specializes in peripheral vascular disease. Referring physicians may call 469.814.3565 to schedule a patient for evaluation.
Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano or Baylor Scott & White Health.