Do you suffer from chronic leg pain? Have you found no relief for your aching lower back? Do you feel sudden chest pains? You might not be aware of it, but chronic pain, even those you experience in your legs and back, can be a sign of a clogged-up artery!
Arterial blockages, also known as Atherosclerosis, happens when there is a build-up of fatty and fibrous material on the walls of the artery. Although usually occurring in the heart, neck, and brain, the peripheral arteries such as those in your legs can get blocked up as well. If left untreated, this arterial disease can progress to symptoms such as chest pain or lead to life-threatening heart diseases and conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
What Causes A Blocked Artery?
Atherosclerosis develops when arteries become narrow and get blocked due to plaque buildup. This plaque is made up of different substances, such as calcium, fat, cholesterol, and fibrin. In response to plaque buildup, the cells in your artery walls also multiply and secrete additional substances that can worsen the state of the clogged arteries. Experts are unsure as to what ultimately causes atherosclerosis, but the following are considered its risk factors:
- High-fat diet. Consuming foods high in “bad” cholesterol (saturated fats) and low in “good” cholesterol (Omega-3 fatty acids) are major contributors to plaque formation.
- High blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure can increase the rate at which arterial plaque build-up, leading to the hardening or clogging of arteries.
- Studies show that cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis, especially in the arteries of the heart, legs, and aorta.
- High blood sugar levels. Diabetes also increases one’s likelihood of developing atherosclerosis.
- Other risk factors such as stress, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and family history
What Happens When You Have A Clogged Artery?
The plaques clogging up your arteries can restrict blood flow to the heart muscle by physically narrowing the artery or by causing abnormal artery tone and function. Without an adequate blood supply, the heart becomes starved of oxygen-rich blood and the vital nutrients it needs to work properly. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the USA.
The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that someone in the US has a heart attack about every 40 seconds. In addition, for patients with no risk factors for coronary artery disease, the lifetime risk of having heart disease is 3.6% for men and less than 1% for women.
How Do You Know If You Have Clogged Arteries?
Clogged arteries or atherosclerosis don’t often show signs until discomforting symptoms like pain or cramping happen. Some people experience pain in their lower back and legs, which can be a tell-tale sign of a peripheral arterial blockage. Unfortunately for others, the first time they realize that they have atherosclerosis is when they have an event such as a stroke or a heart attack.
What are the potential consequences of atherosclerosis?
Blocked arteries can stay silent for many decades. However, once the plaque narrows the arteries significantly and insufficient blood passes through, symptoms like pain and discomfort may happen. This can happen either in the chest (angina) due to lack of blood getting to the heart or in the calves (claudication).
The most dangerous outcome of atherosclerosis occurs if the plaque ruptures (breaks down). The blood flowing over the top of the plaque can clot, causing a blockage in the artery that can result in a heart attack, or it can be carried downstream causing a stroke.
Procedures and Treatments for Blocked Arteries
An angiogram is performed in the Cath Lab as an outpatient procedure. It is done to assess the degree of artery narrowing. Here at VISP, we specialize in peripheral angiograms to detect PVD or PAD.
During the angiogram, our vein specialist inserts a thin tube (catheter) into the artery through a small nick in the skin about the size of a pencil tip. The contrast, also known as x-ray dye, is injected through the catheter to make the blood vessels visible on the live, real-time x-ray.
Procedures To Improve Blood Flow
Our doctors perform angiograms to see if there is a blockage or narrowing in a blood vessel that may interfere with normal blood flow. Generally, a blocked artery can be treated at the same time the angiogram is performed. There are several methods our doctor may do the following treatments to treat the blockages:
- Angioplasty – a small balloon is inserted into the clogged artery. Once placed, it is inflated to open or widen the obstructed artery to increase blood flow.
- Stent Placement – a stent is a small metal tube that is inserted into the artery to support an opened passageway for blood to flow.
- Atherectomy – is the removal of the plaque from the artery walls to help increase unrestricted blood flow.
Effective Diagnosis & Treatments for Arterial Blockages
Don’t let a clogged artery become a chronic discomfort that can lead to life-threatening conditions. Our expert doctors here at Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott have years of experience and extensive training to perform these special procedures. Trust us as your pain specialists to assess and address your symptoms to help you find the lasting relief you deserve.