Arteritis of the legs, which also takes the name of occlusive peripheral arterial disease (or PAD), is a condition that results from the decrease in the efficiency of the arteries that supply blood to the lower limbs. It is mainly due to cholesterol deposits on the artery walls. Arteritis of the legs may, in some rare cases, be linked to chronic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases.
PAD is asymptomatic at early stages. It is only after some time (as the depositing of cholesterol increases) that the first symptoms may appear:
- fatigue when walking;
- muscle cramps in the feet or legs when walking (intermittent claudication), with the gradual reduction of time before the onset of discomfort;
- pain in the legs even at rest and at night;
- skin eruptions on the legs or even gangrene at the terminal stage.
Several factors help to make the diagnosis of arteritis of the legs. Firstly, there are clinical signs (cramping and the ability to walk becoming less and less significant) and coupled with a decreased heart rate. Then, when the PAD is particularly advanced, one can find skin ulcers and necrosis that are difficult to heal. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by a Doppler exam (to visualize blood flow), arteriography or an angio-scanner (scan to visualize the arterial system).
To prevent arteritis of the legs, one must limit the potential risk factors: overeating, too much cholesterol intake, physical inactivity, and especially the use of alcohol and tobacco. At the same time, it is imperative to be followed by a healthcare professional for any related pathologies, namely hypertension and diabetes, which must be well controlled.
The treatment of arteritis of the legs is based primarily on prevention. In addition, some drugs are given to the patient: antiplatelet agents help fight against the shrinking of the artery, and may be combined with other medications to lower blood cholesterol, or possibly control diabetes and blood pressure.
If the evolution of the disease is too advanced, dilation of the artery in question can be performed using a balloon, called a stent, a way to keep the artery open. Another solution may be surgery, with the completion of a bridge" that bypasses the blocked area. In the most severe cases