Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a condition wherein the arteries that supply blood to different parts of the body get clogged as a result of which the destination organ, typically legs, receive little blood flow. Lower flow of blood to legs (and hands) can cause pain. Pain in legs due to peripheral artery disease while walking is termed as “claudication”. Fat can get deposited at the interior walls of the arteries narrowing down the path for blood flow. This condition is called “atherosclerosis” and can lead to peripheral artery disease.
Symptoms of peripheral artery disease
Depending on how narrow the arteries have become, the symptoms vary. Some may not feel or see anything happening and while many others see mild symptoms. The most common symptom is pain in the leg while walking, called ‘claudication’. Claudication refers to the muscle pain in the legs or arms while walking or doing any other activity as a result of lowered blood flow.
Peripheral artery disease symptoms:
- Pain in hips, legs or arms after walking or doing some work.
- Numbness in limbs or any other part of the body (depending on where the artery is clogged)
- Sores or wounds on the feet that take a long time to heal or don’t heal at all (Due to low oxygen supply through blood)
- Pale leg or change in the colour of skin on legs
- Slower growth of nails, loss of skin on the legs.
- No pulse or a weak pulse at the ankle of the leg.
- Possible erectile dysfunction when not the right amount of blood flows into the penis.
Constant pain in legs or arms for no reason irrespective of what you do or don’t do needs a doctor’s examination. If you are over 50 years and have such a problem or if the wounds on your legs are not healing even though you are not diabetic, you must see a doctor as soon as possible.
Peripheral artery disease causes
The main cause of peripheral artery disease is clogging of arteries at one or multiple places inside the body. In some people, fat starts getting deposited on the inner walls of the arteries at certain locations (such as the hip or above the calf etc). This narrows down the passage for blood. As the fat deposit thickens, it may rupture at some point causing the blood clot to form. The fat and the blood clot stops the blood flow that can deprive the muscles of much needed oxygen leading to pain. (Pain is just a symptom of the lowered blood flow.)
- Obesity, high cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Complications due to peripheral artery disease
- Critical limb ischemia – A condition where in the sores or wounds on the limbs (typically legs) don’t heal, leading to the death of tissue and then amputation.
- Stroke and heart attack – If the fat deposits are present inside the blood vessels of heart or brain, that can result in brain stroke or heart attack accordingly.