When to Get Treatment for Blocked Arteries in Legs [Peripheral Artery Disease]

chronic leg pain due to peripheral artery disease

Do you have chronic leg pain? Are your pain relievers not effective enough for your lower backache?

Your arteries in the legs might be blocked.

Blocked arteries in the legs cause blood to flow less to your legs. This condition is often known as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

If the leg pain caused by PAD becomes severe, you may have to stop your regular physical activities and undergo treatment from your trusted healthcare provider.

But when exactly do you need to seek treatment for blocked arteries in your legs? Let’s discuss that in this article.

When To Get Treatment For Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Symptoms of Blocked Arteries In Legs

Most peripheral artery disease patients do not have symptoms.

Those who experience PAD symptoms might feel heavy, tired, or cramping legs when walking or exercising. The pain usually disappears when the physical activity stops.

The symptom is called claudication – leg muscle pain or cramping occurs during physical activities and disappears after a few minutes of rest.

The severity of claudication differs from individual to individual. Severe claudication causes debilitating pain and makes it difficult for the patient to walk and participate in other physical activities.

Other symptoms of PAD include:

  • Painful cramps in one or both of your hips, thighs, or calf muscles after doing physical activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
  • Numbness or weakness in the legsUnusual cold lower leg or foot
  • Prolonged soreness on your toes, feet, or legs
  • A change in the color of your legs
  • Loss of hair on feet and legs
  • Slower growth of toenails
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Pain or cramping in the arms, especially when knitting, writing, or doing other manual tasks

The pain caused by peripheral artery disease may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Consult a vascular doctor immediately for medication and treatment.

Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease is often caused by a condition called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque (deposits made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) builds up inside the arteries, limiting blood flow to your organs and other body parts.

The condition usually focuses on the heart, but it can affect arteries in other parts of the body, including the limbs.

Aside from atherosclerosis, these are the other possible causes of peripheral artery disease:

  • blood vessel inflammation
  • injury to your limbs
  • unusual anatomy of your ligaments or muscles
  • radiation exposure.

The risk factors

smoking causes blocked arteries in legs

Given the above causes, people who smoke or have diabetes have a high risk of developing PAD due to blood flow issues.

Aside from smoking and diabetes, certain risk factors can also damage the blood vessel wall and cause arterial blockages:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity (a body mass index over 30)
  • Old age, especially those are over 50 years old
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease, or heart attacks
  • High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that helps your body make protein and to build and maintain tissue

How To Find Out If You Have PAD

Here are some tests that your healthcare provider may do to diagnose peripheral artery disease:

  • Physical exam. Your physician will diagnose signs of PAD during a physical exam, such as a weak pulse near a narrowed area in the artery, a whooshing sound in your arteries using a stethoscope, wound signs in areas with restricted blood flow, and high blood pressure.
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI). A common test is used to compare the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.

    Your doctor will use a regular sphygmomanometer to read blood pressure, and special ultrasound imaging techniques to analyze blood pressure and flow and identify artery blockages.

You may be asked to do certain exercises like walking and read your bp before and immediately after exercising to capture the severity of the narrowed arteries.

  • Blood tests. The doctor will take a sample of your blood to measure your cholesterol and triglycerides levels and check any signs of diabetes.
  • Angiography. Using an x-ray imaging test, the doctor will be able to view your body’s blood vessels. Angiography is useful when analyzing narrow, blocked, enlarged, or malformed arteries in various parts of your body, including the brain, heart, abdomen, and limbs.

Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease

medical treatment for blocked arteries in legs

According to the American Heart Association, lifestyle changes, exercise, and claudication medications are enough to slow the progression or even reverse the symptoms of mild PAD.

Depending on your health conditions, your doctor can advise you to undergo medical procedures if:

  • You have severe symptoms that limit your ability to live your daily routine.
  • Simpler treatments, such as exercise, lifestyle changes, and medicine, aren’t effective.

Here are the treatment options your recommend may advise you to have:

Peripheral Angioplasty And Arterial Stent Placement

Sometimes called balloon angioplasty with stenting, this procedure is done after performing an angiogram and confirming a blockage.

The doctor inserts a balloon-tipped catheter into the blocked blood vessel to push the plaque against the artery wall and widen the opening to increase blood flow. Bare metal or drug-eluting stents may also be inserted to try to prevent restenosis, but stents cannot always be used.

Atherectomy

Atherectomy is a procedure performed by inserting a catheter within the blood vessel to remove the plaque that is blocking an artery by “shaving” it off from the inside of the arterial wall. Atherectomy can be performed at the same time as a peripheral angiogram.

Have Your Peripheral Artery Disease Treated By An Expert

Peripheral artery disease can be frustrating, especially when it restricts you to live your life normally. Don’t get discouraged, though. PAD is curable.

Consult a doctor if you feel any signs of PAD. Lifestyle modifications and home remedies are often recommended to those with mild PAD diagnosis, while others are encouraged to undergo medical procedures.

If you need a medical consultation for your blocked leg arteries, VISP – Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott is here to help you.

We have top-level care treatment and minimally invasive procedures for arterial conditions with quick recovery time!

Visit our website to know more about our services, or call us at 928.771.8477 to book an appointment today!