Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem of the blood vessels that supply your legs and feet. It happens when there is a narrowing of the arteries of your legs. It decreases the blood flow to your leg muscles, which causes nerve injury and affects other tissues. This problem is a sort of cardiovascular disease because it affects blood vessels.
The build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries makes them narrower and restricts blood flow to the legs. This condition is called atherosclerosis and represents the most common cause of peripheral vascular disease.
There are two main subtypes of peripheral artery disease: proximal and distal. The proximal type involves the aortoiliac and femoropopliteal sites, and the distal involves the infrapopliteal region. The distal type affects the medial aspect and leads to poorly compressible arteries with high mortality.
You may develop that disease if you are a smoker. Smoking is the most significant risk factor. Also, other risk factors increase put you at a higher risk, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart or kidney diseases.
Many patients with that disease may be asymptomatic in the early stages, while some patients have leg pain or cramping during walking (claudication). This pain increases by walking and disappears after minutes of rest. The site of pain indicates the narrowed artery location, which is usually in the calf. The severity of claudication differs from mild to severe.
Severe claudication can debilitate you from walking or doing physical activity. The symptoms may also include weakness, numbness, heaviness, coldness, redness, infections, and sores. In the advanced stage, pain may even occur at rest or when you are lying down. Peripheral artery disease has high-risk vascular complications, such as:
- Myocardial infarction
- Renal artery disease
- Mesenteric disease
The peripheral arterial disease affects about 30% of older persons in the general population. The principal symptom, intermittent claudication, occurs in those under 50 years but increases in older individuals.
If you have leg pain during walking or exercise, you should see your doctor as early as possible. Ask your doctor about this disease if you’re 70 years even if you haven’t any symptoms. Seek your doctor’s advice if you have:
- A positive family history of peripheral artery disease, heart problems, or stroke
- Elevated total cholesterol
- Smoke now or in the past