The Danger of Poor Circulation in Your Legs
We’ve all experienced a circulation problem at one time or another, such as when an arm or leg “falls asleep,” or when something tightfitting temporarily restricts circulation.
These types of issues are easily corrected and are usually no cause for concern. However, we need to be aware of other issues with our circulatory system that can result in severe consequences to our health.
Your blood circulates through a complex system of arteries and veins. Your arteries move blood away from your heart to nourish tissues and organs. Your veins return blood back to your heart.
Any condition that restricts blood flow in your body is called “vascular disease.” Often, vascular disease is caused by atherosclerosis ― a build-up of fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries. Over time, the build-up narrows the artery, causing less blood to flow.
It’s common to hear how atherosclerosis can affect arteries leading to your heart or brain, which is the primary cause of heart attack and stroke. But, arteries that supply blood to your limbs can also be affected, which can lead to serious disability or amputation.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood fl ow to your limbs. Symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:
• Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles when walking or climbing stairs
• Leg numbness or weakness
• Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially in one side
• Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
• A change in the color of your legs
• Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
• Slower growth of your toenails
• Shiny skin on your legs
• No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
• Erectile dysfunction in men
If peripheral artery disease progresses, you may have pain when you’re at rest or lying down. It may be intense enough to disrupt sleep.
Your risk of peripheral artery disease
You are more likely to have peripheral artery disease as you get older. Other factors that increase your risk include:
• Lack of exercise/sedentary lifestyle
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Family history of vascular or heart disease
Losing weight, eating healthy foods, being active, and not smoking can help prevent vascular disease.
Peripheral artery disease can be serious
People with peripheral artery disease have an increased risk of developing disabling or fatal conditions.
If you have peripheral artery disease you’re at risk of developing open sores that do not heal. Left untreated, this can lead to tissue death (gangrene) ―sometimes requiring amputation of the affected limb.
Furthermore, peripheral artery disease can indicate more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in arteries affecting other parts of your body. Blood fl ow to your heart, brain, or other vital organs could also be affected, which can lead to heart attack, stroke or organ failure.
Diagnosing and treating peripheral artery disease
If you have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, contact your doctor. It is also important to see your doctor if you are over 50 and have other risk factors, such as a history of smoking or a sedentary lifestyle.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and a series of tests to evaluate your vascular health. If necessary, he/she may refer you for testing and treatment with a vascular specialist.
Treatment for peripheral artery disease has two major goals:
• Manage symptoms, such as leg pain, so that you can resume physical activities
• Stop the progression of atherosclerosis throughout your body to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke
You may be able to accomplish these goals with lifestyle changes, especially early in the course of peripheral artery disease. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and control pain and other symptoms.
In some cases, it may be necessary to clear and open blocked peripheral arteries. At Kingman Regional
Medical Center, our Vascular Center provides sophisticated procedures to treat vascular problems, including peripheral artery disease.
To treat a blocked peripheral artery, we use the same procedure used to open heart arteries (called angioplasty).
This involves inserting a small hollow tube (catheter) through a small incision in your skin and threading it to the affected artery. There, a small balloon on the tip of the catheter is inflated to reopen the artery.
A mesh framework, called a stent, may also be inserted into the artery to help keep it open.
For further information, please call the KRMC Vascular Center at (928) 263-3434.
To learn more about KRMC, visit azkrmc.com
Sponsored content information provided by Kingman Regional Medical Center