When a patient experiences partial or full blockage of circulation to the lower extremities (legs/feet), this condition is known as Leg Artery Disease, or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). The main cause of this condition is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
In a manner similar to hypertension, there are no noticeable symptoms of leg artery disease itself; the symptoms come from complications stemming from the condition. These vary in levels of severity, and can include:
- Discomfort in leg muscles when walking or exercising
- Foot pain
- Heart attack
- Skin ulcers on feet and/or toes
Risk Factors for Leg Artery Disease
The main cause or risk factor for the condition is hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which leads to not enough oxygenated blood being carried to the lower extremities. This condition occurs with age. Patients with high blood pressure or diabetes are also at greater risk Gender is also a factor, with more men than women developing leg artery disease. Lifestyle choices can also be risk factors, including smoking or being obese.
Treating Leg Artery Disease
As with many vascular conditions, if the condition is detected early, quite often simple lifestyle changes can be enough to treat it. It is important to maintain control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Exercise and losing weight go a long way to helping maintaining healthy measurements in these areas. As a second line of defense, medications can help maintain acceptable and healthy levels in the above areas.
In more advanced cases, surgical treatments of varying degrees of invasiveness will be needed to open up the blood flow in the lower extremities, including angioplasty or endarterectomy. In extremely severe cases that have led to gangrene, amputation of the affected limb may be necessary.