written by: Jason C. Chavis
• edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• updated: 3/25/2010
Peripheral artery disease is a condition that impacts many people, however, the signs can sometimes be hidden. The best way to identify possible blood clots or narrowed arteries is to recognize the symptoms of peripheral artery disease. Once they are identified, many forms of treatment can help.
slide 1 of 4
Overall Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
The symptoms of peripheral artery disease do not necessarily make themselves apparent in their early stages. Only about one in ten people experience overt pain during physical activity. This is a condition known as intermittent claudication and is recognized by cramping and muscle pain in the legs or arms. Generally, this is felt most readily when minor activity such as walking is performed and can range from simple discomfort to major debilitating pain. When the person comes to a rest, the pain subsides. Judging from the location of the pain, a doctor can make a determination of where the clogged or narrowed artery exists. The most common area of concern is the calf.
Other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include a variety of conditions. Numbing or coldness in the leg or foot, usually more prevalent in one more than the other can occur. Some people also feel a general malaise or weakness in the limbs. Visible symptoms can also develop including sores that won't heal, loss of hair or changes in color of the legs and nails.
Above right: Symtoms of Peripheral Artery Disease. (Supplied by Wfnicdao at Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Pvd002.jpg)
slide 2 of 4
Factors that Increase Symptoms
A variety of risk factors can increase the symptoms associated with peripheral artery disease. Among the most common controllable factors are smoking, obesity and high cholesterol. Other conditions also increase the symptoms of peripheral artery disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure. People over the age of 50 or with a family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease and stroke should be cautious when possible symptoms appear. Doctors can also test for homocysteine and C-reactive protein levels in the blood. The tissue-building protein and inflammation marker respectively can maintain excessive levels in the body, causing higher incidence of symptoms.
slide 3 of 4
Treatment Peripheral Artery Disease
Those who suffer from the symptoms of peripheral artery disease need treatment to manage the pain and also prevent more serious problems from occurring. Pain management is generally handled with over-the-counter medication such as an anti-inflammatory when possible. When the conditions is very serious, stronger pain medications may be prescribed while the treatment of the actual condition is being managed.
The number one thing to help the symptoms is lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking and a healthy diet are the first line of defense against the condition. Additional medication may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. After pain management is achieved, a regular exercise regimen can also provide major benefits.
In some situations, surgery may be needed to relieve the symptoms of peripheral artery disease. This can include angioplasty or bypass surgery. Arterial blockage may also need thrombolytic therapy, the direct injection of clot-dissolving drugs into the area of concern.
slide 4 of 4
"Peripheral Artery Disease" Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peripheral-arterial-disease/DS00537
"Peripheral Artery Disease of the Legs" WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/peripheral-arterial-disease-of-the-legs-symptoms