Leg Pain, Gangrene, and Claudication: Know the Signs of Peripheral Vascular Disease

Leg Pain, Gangrene, and Claudication: Know the Signs of Peripheral Vascular Disease

Leg Pain, Gangrene, and Claudication: Know the Signs of Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disease that is frequently progressive. Although the disease can unfold slowly over time, it can eventually lead to discomfort, especially in the legs and feet. However, it’s important to manage PVD and its heightened risk for heart attack, stroke, or other health emergencies, including severe pain and the development of gangrene. Here, we’ll explore the signs and symptoms of PVD as well as its most effective treatments.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Explained

PVD mainly affects people who are over the age of 50 and may also be suffering from atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in artery walls. Because PVD can affect any blood vessel such as the arteries and veins, it is sometimes referred to as peripheral artery disease. The condition causes the blood vessels to narrow, spasm, or even become blocked. The reduced blood flow means that vital organs may not get the blood flow they need to function properly. PVD typically, however, affects the legs and feet, preventing them from getting optimum blood flow, which may result in pain or even serious complications such as the formation of blood clots or the development of gangrene. PVD may also be caused by an injury or even an infection.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of PVD?

As many as half of the people who have PVD experience no symptoms. On the other hand, the most common symptom of the condition is leg pain or cramping that may occur after walking, standing for long periods, or exercise. Intermittent claudication (rest) often decreases or eliminates the pain, but only temporarily. Subsequent exercise may lead to more symptom onset. Other signs of PVD include:

  • Weakened pulse in the feet and legs
  • Changes in the skin of the legs and feet (skin may appear shiny or brittle)
  • Hair loss on legs
  • Burning or aching pain in the affected area
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Weakness or numbness in muscles
  • Reddish-blue coloration of extremities
  • Development of gangrene in affected limbs

If you begin to feel pain in your limbs, you should see your healthcare provider. If PVD is diagnosed, there are treatments that can improve or eliminate symptoms and may help prevent complications.

How Is PVD Treated?

If your doctor diagnoses you with PVD, they have various treatment options at their disposal. First, however, they may suggest important lifestyle changes that can help alleviate disease symptoms, making PVD management easier. These lifestyle changes may include adopting a healthier diet, exercise, and quitting smoking. Treatment of PVD may also be dependent on other health conditions that may be present such as heart disease or diabetes. The most common treatments for PVD are:

  • Medications to improve blood flow and relax blood vessel walls
  • Vascular surgery (may be needed to reroute blood flow around blockages)
  • Angioplasty (to create a larger opening in the artery wall)
  • Insertion of a stent

Your treatment will depend on your current condition and the presence of any other health conditions.

Claudication–the pain associated with PVD is often the first symptom that people with this condition notice, but you should have any unusual symptoms investigated. It’s important to manage PVD effectively in order to reduce the risk for complications like gangrene that can develop when the tissues don’t get the blood flow needed to remain healthy. If you experience any of the signs or symptoms of PVD outlined here, contact Coastal Vascular Center and let our specialists assess and treat your condition, helping you improve your health and overall well-being.