If you suffer from regular pain and cramps in your legs, calves or hips while walking, it could point to a serious condition of blocked arteries in legs. The medical term for this condition is peripheral arterial/vascular disease (PAD), which is often accompanied by coronary artery disease. In this condition, arteries carrying blood to the legs get clogged, adversely affecting blood flow to legs. The affected person experiences pain and a burning sensation in the legs. S/he also gets cramps and sharp pain while walking which only goes away on resting for some time. A limp in the leg due to this condition is termed as claudication, which occurs because of inadequate blood flow to the muscles, which are being actively used. In severe cases of PAD, feet and toes pain even while at rest, especially if the legs are elevated. The most vulnerable group for contracting PAD is diabetics, followed by smokers, high blood pressure patients, and people with high cholesterol levels. PAD is a progressive disease, continues to get aggravated without treatment, and makes the affected person susceptible to cardiovascular stroke. Thus, early diagnosis and treatment are the best remedies for PAD. Given below are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for blocked arteries in legs.
Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Of Blocked Arteries In Legs
- The most common cause of peripheral arterial disease in older people is atherosclerosis in which artery walls thicken due to the buildup of fatty material like cholesterol or atheromatous plaque (white blood cell buildup).
- Arteries may also get blocked suddenly. This happens when a part of a blood clot that formed in the heart, aorta, or another artery breaks off to travel through the bloodstream (as an embolus) until reaching an artery too small for it to pass through.
- Disorders such as atrial fibrillation, aneurysms, and clotting disorders make the person susceptible to blood clots.
- People suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels are prone to plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Deep vein thrombosis may also be a cause of blocked arteries in legs.
- Prolonged period of being bed-ridden can also cause this disease.
- Inactive lifestyle along with a high fat/imbalanced diet is a major reason of suffering from artery blockage.
- Pain, cramps and weakness in legs, calves, thighs and hips while walking or exercising is a sign of PAD.
- Intermittent bouts of claudication, wherein the person experiences debilitating pain that makes him/her limp and which goes away on resting for long duration, are seen.
- Cold and numb feet or toes are also a symptom of PAD.
- Feeling pain in the legs even while at rest suggests the progression of the disease. They might look pale after exercising or being elevated.
- Loss of hair, ulcers, sores, wounds, and gangrene infection (dead tissue) indicated by black skin, on the legs, feet or toes are telltale signs of arterial blockage.
- If the affected person is a smoker, it is imperative for the person to completely quit the habit. Quitting smoking eliminates a major risk and lowers the incidence of progression of the disease.
- A healthy balanced diet, with a cut-down on cholesterol is necessary to prevent the disease from aggravating. Medication such as statins may be used to lower the cholesterol.
- The doctor can prescribe aspirin or other antiplatelet medicines help prevent blood clots from forming. Those with high blood pressure are given medication to control it. In case the affected person is diabetic, his/her blood sugar levels need to be strictly controlled.
- Exercise and physical activity is also an essential to deal with PAD. Even though it is painful to exercise for too long, the muscles and arteries need to be kept active so as to maintain and increase the blood flow and oxygen reaching the legs. Certain medicines ease the pain and allow the person to walk for longer distances.
- ACE inhibitors, blood thinners, or beta-blockers are also used to increase the blood flow through arteries.
- If the blockage is sudden, emergency treatment needs to be done. To dissolve blood clots blocking the artery, drugs that dissolves clots (thrombolytic drug), such as tissue plasminogen activator or streptokinase, are used. If drugs are ineffective, bypass surgery or angioplasty and stenting are performed.
- Other surgeries include endarterectomy and thrombolytic therapy. In endarterectomy, plaque buildup is removed by making an incision; and in thrombolytic therapy, the clots are dissolved by injecting medication into the blocked arteries in legs.