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When organs and muscles in the body receive an insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood, they literally become starved and alert you to this fact by producing pain.  If the blockage occurs in the arteries supplying the legs, the resulting symptom is a cramping pain in the hips, thighs or calf muscle and can limit even casual walking.  If the cycle of pain is relieved with rest, we call the condition intermittent claudication.  Pain that occurs during rest can sometimes be alleviated by lowering the legs so the force of gravity shunts blood into the feet.  If blood circulation becomes so severely restricted that the legs and feet are perpetually starved for nutrition, gangrene—or death of the tissue—can occur.  Without treatment, the entire foot or possibly part of the leg may have to be amputated.

Other symptoms of peripheral vascular disease in the lower extremity include: coldness of the leg, foot or toes; paleness of the leg or foot if elevated; blue/red discoloration of the foot or toes; loss or decreased growth of hair on the legs; dry, fragile or shiny-looking skin; numbness, tingling or pain in the leg, foot or toes; sores that do not heal.

Other conditions can also cause these symptoms.  Therefore, a thorough examination with a physician is necessary.

Symptoms of peripheral vascular disease in the carotid arteries include: sudden, temporary weakness or numbness of the face, arm and/or leg on one side of the body; temporary loss of speech or trouble speaking or understanding speech; temporary dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) are mini-strokes and illicit the same symptoms named above except they are temporary.

Symptoms of peripheral vascular disease in the renal arteries include; hypertension (high blood pressure-consistently higher than 140/90); abnormal kidney function blood test.


When any of the above-named symptoms occur, a history and physical examination accompanied by an ultrasound Doppler test are initially performed. The ultrasound Doppler test visualizes the inside of the arteries using sound waves to determine if there is plaque buildup, and if so, to what extent. This test is simple and painless. If the test shows that the stenosis (or narrowing of the artery) is severe, then a test called an arteriogram or aortagram will give your physician the complete information he or she needs to properly diagnosis your condition.