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Peripheral Arterial Diseases

Causes of Peripheral Arterial Diseases

The blood vessels outside your heart, called peripheral arteries, may develop atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque—fat and cholesterol deposits on the inside blood vessel walls. Plague narrows your arteries. Over time, the narrowed arteries allow less blood to flow, and a condition called ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the body's tissue) can occur.

Types of Peripheral Arterial Diseases

  • Peripheral artery disease is a blockage in the leg(s), causing cramps with activity, called claudication. Other symptoms include leg pain, sores or ulcers, changes in skin color and leg fatigue. Complete loss of circulation can lead to gangrene and limb loss.
  • Popliteal entrapment syndrome is a rare vascular disease, affecting the legs of some young athletes. The muscle and tendons near the knee compress the popliteal artery. This limits blood flow to the lower leg, possibly injuring the artery.
  • Intestinal ischemic syndrome is a condition in which blood flow to the intestines decreases as a result of a blockage in the blood vessels.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon is when exposure to cold or excitement causes spasms of the small arteries in the fingers and, sometimes, the toes.
  • Buerger's disease is a narrowing or blockage of arteries in the arms and legs. This causes pain (even when resting) and ischemia to the fingers, hands, toes and feet. When the blockage is severe, gangrene may set in, requiring amputation of the fingers and toes. Symptoms of Raynaud's and superficial vein inflammation are common in patients with Buerger's Disease. This condition most commonly affects the small and medium sized arteries, veins and nerves. Although there is no known cause, there is strong correlation with tobacco use or exposure.
  • Renal artery disease is a blockage in the renal arteries. The symptoms include congestive heart failure, uncontrolled high blood pressure and irregular kidney function.

Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Diseases

Some of the most common symptoms of peripheral arterial diseases include pain when walking, lower extremity pain, pain that is not relieved at rest and foot sores that won’t heal.

Diagnosis of Peripheral Arterial Diseases

A simple, noninvasive ultrasound and leg blood pressure examination can diagnose peripheral arterial diseases and determine severity.

Treatment of Peripheral Arterial Diseases

Depending on the severity of your condition, treatment options may include lifestyle changes, medications, minimally invasive angioplasty/stenting, or open bypass surgery.

Lifestyle Management

  • Smoking cessation
  • Daily exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Medical management of risk factor conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure

Make an Appointment

If you or someone you care for is experiencing peripheral arterial disease symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of WakeMed’s experienced vascular specialists.