peripheral artery disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (Leg Pain): Symptoms That Can Turn in Severe Problem

Leg pain problem or more appropriately called as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a very painful and teasing health problem. It is caused by “arteries hardening” or arteriosclerosis. The main reason for the happening of peripheral artery disease is the accumulation of buildup of fatty material (also known as plaque) on you arteries walls which as a result makes them narrower. Due to this material buildup, the arteries also becomes stiff and cannot dilate (or widen) easily which as a result prohibit the required flow of blood at any time.

peripheral artery disease

Extremities Regarding Arteriosclerosis:

When this problem happened, the legs muscles are unable to get required blood flow and oxygen when they are working harder, i.e. while doing exercise or walk. If peripheral artery disease becomes severe, it creates problems in normal flow of blood even if the muscles are on rest.

PAD is common health disorder. It normally affects male over the age of 50, females can also have this problem as well. People with the following mentioned disease history are at more risk to get the problem of peripheral artery disease;

  1. Diabetic patients
  2. Cholesterol abnormality
  3. Cardiovascular disease (coronary artery disease)
  4. High blood pressure patients
  5. Kidney disease involving hemodialysis
  6. Smoking habitual
  7. Stroke (cerebrovascular disease)

peripheral artery disease effected arteries, plaque

Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms:

There are different symptoms for PAD, some of the commonly known symptoms are:

  1. Pain
  2. Achiness
  3. Fatigue
  4. Burning
  5. And discomfort in the muscles of calves, thighs and feet.

peripheral artery disease problem

These symptoms appear when you do some work involving the muscular fatigue, like walking or exercise. It usually goes away after several minutes of rest.

In its initial stage, these symptoms only appears when you walk or hike uphill or walk faster or for longer distances. If it’s not taken care at this stage, the symptoms becomes severe and person feeling pain even walking few steps of a very little exercise. Even if a person is on rest, legs feel numb. Sometimes the legs also felt cool when touched and pale in color.

 Severe peripheral artery disease: Person may have: 

  1. Cramps with pain at night
  2. May feel pain and tingling effect in feet and/or toes. It sometimes becomes so severe that clothes/ bed sheets weight are painful.
  3. Tendency towards impotence
  4. If one tries to raise the leg, pain becomes severe, while it is reduced when one dangle legs over the bed side.
  5. Sores that don’t heal.
  6. Dark and blue colored skin
  7. Medical exams/ tests

 Medical Checkup Findings: 

  1. A doctor may hear a whooshing sound, during checkup/ tests, when the stethoscope is held over the artery.
  2. Decreased pressure of blood in the affected limbs.
  3. Normally weak (sometimes absent) pulses in the limb.

 When PAD is Severe, Diagnostic Findings May Include: 

  1. Shrinked calf muscle
  2. Loss of hair on legs, feet and toes.
  3. Non-bleeding but painful sores on the feet and/or toes. They heal very slowly.
  4. Thickening of toe nails.
  5. Tight and shiny skin.
  6. Pale skin and/or bluish color in toes or feet (cyanosis)
  7. Cholesterol or diabetes may show in blood test.

 Medical Tests for PAD Diagnosis include:

  1. Angiography of the arteries in the legs (arteriography)
  2. Blood pressure measured in the arms and legs for comparison (ankle/brachial index, or ABI)
  3. Doppler ultrasound exam of an extremity.
  4. Magnetic resonance angiography or CT angiography.

Precautions to Control Peripheral Artery Disease:

  1. Balanced exercise with rest.
  2. Walk or any other activity to the point of pain and then rest properly.
  3. Always talk to you doctor before any physical activity (exercise) if you have PAD problem.
  4. No more smoking as it narrow down the arteries, decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, and increases the risk of forming clots (thrombi and emboli).
  5. Take care of your feet, especially if you also have diabetes. Wear shoes that fit properly.
  6. Pay attention to any cuts, scrapes, or injuries, and see your doctor right away. Tissues heal slowly and are more likely to get infected when there is decreased circulation.
  7. Keep your blood pressure under check and make sure it is well controlled.
  8. Reduce your weight and maintains your body-mass index if you are overweight.
  9. If you have a high cholesterol problem, avoid the diet that is the cause of the increased cholesterol.
  10. If you are diabetic, always monitor your blood glucose level regularly to keep it well under control.

Possible Complications in Severe Case:

  1. Blood clots or emboli that block small arteries
  2. Coronary artery disease
  3. Impotence
  4. Open sores (ischemic ulcers) on the lower legs
  5. Tissue death (gangrene)
  6. The affected leg or foot may need to be amputated.


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