It's a disease that affects 10 million Americans, but doctors say most people afflicted with peripheral vascular disease don't even know they have it.
"This is a real common disease," said Dr. Jack Stuber, a physician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Peripheral vascular disease is a condition in which arteries that carry blood to the arms or legs become clogged. The blood flow often slows and can eventually stop altogether.
Doctors aren't certain why some people get the disease, but they do know several contributing factors: smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history of heart or vascular disease and being overweight. Studies have shown the single most important step to slow peripheral vascular disease is to stop smoking.
The disease's most common symptom is pain in the leg while walking or exercising.
"You usually get it after walking one block or so and it's always reproducible," Stuber said. "You stop and the pain goes away and then you start up again and the pain reoccurs at about the same distance."
That symptom is known as claudication. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling and weakness in the leg or legs.
In some cases, peripheral vascular disease can be successfully controlled with certain lifestyle habits, such as exercise and dieting to lose weight and lower blood cholesterol.
But when the disease is already diagnosed, patients must turn to medication, angioplasty or surgery for treatment.
The worst-case scenario for patients who do not treat their condition is amputation.
"If it's not treated, depending on the severity of the disease, it can eventually lead to something very serious, such as amputation," Stuber said. "Most of the time, however, that doesn't happen if it's treated early."