Cardiovascular Disease is more than a disease of the heart. It can affect any part of your body that relies on nutrient-rich and oxygenated blood to function. When the problem is in the blood vessels that carry blood to any part of the body other than the heart, it is called Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) or Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). A number of foot and leg ailments are associated with circulatory problems and blockages in the arteries of the legs or feet. Common symptoms include: cramps; swelling of the ankle, foot or leg; pain in the calf, toes or thighs; numbness; constantly cold feet; and varicose or spider veins. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an evaluation with American Foot and Leg Specialists, with four convenient locations in Stockbridge, Atlanta, Fayetteville and Forest Park, Georgia.
Why is Identifying Circulatory Symptoms in the Feet and Legs Important?
The existence of plaque and blockages in the arteries of the legs or feet is usually an indication that you probably have it in other organs, such as your heart, because atherosclerosis affects the entire cardiovascular system. According to the American Heart Association, people with PAD are four to five times more at risk for heart attacks and strokes. So it’s very important for American Foot and Leg to identify the symptoms and diagnose the cause of the problem in order for cardiovascular disease in all its forms to be treated as early as possible. This may to reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke, limb amputation or kidney failure down the road. Left untreated, PAD can make it difficult to carry out and enjoy your daily activities. But even more important —it can put your life at risk.
What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
PAD is narrowing or blockage of arteries that most often causes poor blood flow to your arms and legs, essentially starving the muscles and other tissues in the lower body. The blockages are caused by the buildup of cholesterol, scar tissue and blood clots within the blood vessels. PAD is more likely to develop in people who have an inherited (genetic) tendency to develop blocked arteries, and in people over age 50. It’s also much more common in African Americans, people who smoke, who have diabetes, who have high levels of blood fat (for example, cholesterol) and high blood pressure, and in people who are overweight.
How Does Heart Disease Affect the Legs and Feet?
Many people with PAD are unaware of their condition because they don’t exhibit symptoms. However, PAD can contribute to the following disorders:
Intermittent Claudication. If you experience painful cramps when you walk or exercise, feel a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in the calf, thigh, or buttock, or experience numbness in the lower limbs it could be attributed to your leg muscles not getting enough blood. This pain is called intermittent claudication, and usually happens after you walking or exercising. The pain tends to dissipate when you stop walking, although as PAD becomes more severe, even when you aren’t walking pain in your toe or foot may exist. When it occurs as a person is sleeping, it’s called rest pain.
Venous Disease. Another possible condition is venous disease, especially if you have a history of spider or varicose veins. Unexplained pain, heaviness, or swelling in a leg, or visible see purple, twisted veins in your legs that are raised above the skin, may be an indication of venous disease. Varicose veins develop when valves in the veins that carry blood up toward your heart stop working properly. As a result, blood collects in the veins. The pressure of this pooled blood can push the veins above the surface of your skin.
Edema. Painless swelling of the legs, feet and ankles is a common problem. Abnormal buildup of fluid may affect both legs. Because of the effect of gravity, swelling is particularly noticeable in the lower part of the body. Causes for edema include: Being overweight; a blood clot in the leg; increased age; a leg infection or burn; and failure of veins in the legs to properly pump blood back to the heart.
Prevention and Treatment
It is important to take good care of your feet and legs and your overall health when you have reduced blood flow to your legs, because even minor injuries can lead to serious infections.
Poor blood flow to the legs can keep wounds, cuts, and scrapes from healing properly. Promptly treat any injuries, no matter how minor, especially if you have diabetes.
Shoes and socks that are too tight, rub your feet, or otherwise do not fit well can make circulation problems and symptoms from PAD worse. Products are available in our Product Store to prevent rubbing and to absorb moisture.
Keep your feet clean, dry and moisturized to prevent cracked or dry skin.
If you develop an open sore, keep dry and cover it with nonstick bandages, then seek medical attention.
PAD can be diagnosed using an ultrasound test. Preventive care is the key to good overall health. PAD can be treated using exercise, dietary changes, good blood-sugar control, and medications to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Severe cases are treated with minimally invasive procedures including MLS Therapy or surgery. If you exhibit any of the symptoms or conditions discussed in this blog, schedule a consultation with a physician at American Foot & Leg Specialists, with convenient locations in the south Atlanta metro area in Stockbridge, Fayetteville, Forest Park, and Atlanta.