Peripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease or atherosclerosis, is the end result of the accumulation of atheromatous plaques within the walls of the leg arteries that supply the muscles of the leg with oxygen and nutrients. Leg pain that is secondary to peripheral arterial disease (poor blood flow in the arteries of the legs) typically causes pain with exercise and is relieved with rest. The pain is the result of poor blood flow to the exercising muscles; its the same reason that patients with coronary artery disease get chest (heart) pain. The pain is also very reproducible in that it occurs with an exertion of the same type. The complaint is commonly stated as pain that is associated with walking a certain distance, relieved by a short period of rest and recurs with walking the same distance. The pain may occur sooner when walking up an incline.
This is known as claudication; exercise-induced pain that is relieved by rest and reproducible with the same level of exertion. The distance walked, or level of exertion varies from patient to patient. It ranges from minor intermittent claudication which has no measurable impact on lifestyle to disabling claudication which prevents one from participating in activities that they not only enjoy but that they require for daily living. In some cases, if the causative factors for arterial disease are not controlled this will progress to rest pain, tissue loss, and in some cases limb loss.