Artery Diseases in the Legs
There appears to be some confusion when discussing femoral artery disease (FAD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Let’s correct that. The femoral artery is the main artery that provides blood to the tissues of the leg. It passes through the deep tissues of the thigh region of the leg parallel to the femur.
Why Do My Legs Hurt?
When you walk, your calf muscles need extra blood and oxygen supply. When compromised, the condition is called intermittent claudication. It is due to narrowing one or more of the blood vessels (arteries) in the leg. From here on, we will use the broader term peripheral artery disease, or PAD, to describe the collective diseases that disrupt the circulatory system.
PAD is a narrowing of the arteries most commonly found in the lower regions—specifically muscles in the legs, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks. It is a chronic disease in which plaque builds up due to atherosclerosis, making it difficult for blood to circulate through the arteries. PAD progression happens when blood flow in the arteries becomes completely blocked. Serious blood clots can form when plaque breaks off and enters the bloodstream. Red flag: It is disheartening to hear the term “blood clot” in reference to your vascular health.
While many people with PAD have mild or no symptoms (because it is a sneaky disease), some people have leg pain when walking. Calf pain is the most common location. This pain usually goes away with rest. But, it should not be ignored and you should call your doctor at Lam Vascular & Associates, a Texas specialist in all things vascular. Peripheral artery disease can eventually be a debilitating inhibitor of simple daily activities such as walking your dog or grocery shopping. In its worst case, if not diagnosed or treated, severe PAD can lead to loss (amputation) of a foot or leg and it is considered high risk for heart attack and stroke.
PAD Pain Signs and Symptoms
- Tell-tale signs of femoral artery disease and PAD include:
- Aching, cramping, numbing and weakness that occurs when walking or exercising
- Coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other leg
- Sores on your legs, feet or toes that won’t heal
- Discoloration or shiny skin on the legs
- Hair loss or slow hair growth on feet and legs
- Slower growth of toenails
- Weakened pulse in your legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
According to Lam Vascular & Associates, risk factors of PAD include diabetes; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; obesity; smoking; family genetics; lack of exercise; and increasing age, starting after 50 and especially over age 65.
PAD Prevention and Treatment
You can discuss PAD management and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle with your specialist at Lam Vascular & Associates. We suggest:
- Stopping smoking
- Controlling blood sugar if you have diabetes
- Screening tests for blood pressure and cholesterol
- Developing a healthy eating and activity plan
- Taking suggested supplements, vitamins and eating foods rich in both, such as ALA (alpha-lipoic-acid) vitamins B1, B5, B6, B12 and vitamin D
- Limiting alcohol use
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Developing a light physical therapy plan
- Walking short distances (10 minutes daily and gradually aiming for 30+ minutes several times a week after your doctor’s OK)
When to See Lam Vascular & Associates
If you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms, don’t dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Make an initial appointment/screening with Lam Vascular & Associates.
In more severe cases of PAD, Dr. Lam may recommend peripheral artery bypass surgery or, more commonly, one of these minimally-invasive vascular procedures: angioplasty and stenting; or laser atherectomy. Both are proven to be successful options to help remove plaque from blood vessels and restore blood flow through the arteries. Femoral bypass surgery (also called Fem-Pop) is also a procedure specific to femoral artery disease. It is performed to bypass the blocked portion of the main artery in the leg using a piece of another blood vessel.
At Lam Vascular & Associates, located in Dallas and Rockwall, our goal with every patient is to alleviate pain. And make you comfortable again in your walking shoes. Get a leg up on your vascular health and schedule an appointment with us today.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.