The Charles L. Tice Heart Center for Diagnostic Services:
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Only about half of the individuals with Peripheral Vascular disease have symptoms. Almost always, symptoms are caused by the leg muscles not getting enough blood. Whether you have symptoms depends partly on which artery is affected and to what extent blood flow is restricted.
The most common symptom of peripheral vascular disease in the legs is pain in one or both calves, thighs, or hips.
The pain usually occurs while you are walking or climbing stairs and stops when you rest. This is because the muscles' demand for blood increases during walking and other exercise. The narrowed or blocked arteries cannot supply more blood, so the muscles are deprived of oxygen and other nutrients.
This pain is called intermittent (comes and goes).
It is usually a dull, cramping pain. It may also feel like a heaviness, tightness, or tiredness in the muscles of the legs.
Cramps in the legs have several causes, but cramps that start with exercise and stop with rest most likely are due to intermittent claudication. When the blood vessels in the legs are completely blocked, leg pain at night is very typical, and the individual almost always hangs his or her feet down to ease the pain. Hanging the legs down allows for blood to passively flow into the distal part of the legs.
Other symptoms of peripheral vascular disease include the following:
- Buttock pain;
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs;
- Burning or aching pain in the feet or toes while resting;
- A sore on a leg or a foot that will not heal;
- One or both legs or feet feel cold or change color (pale, bluish, dark reddish);
- Loss of hair on the legs; and
Having symptoms while at rest is a sign of more severe disease.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.
Diagnostic and Interventional Peripheral Vascular Catheterization includes testing and treatment for blockages within the arteries of the kidneys, neck, arms and legs. If blockages are found during the diagnostic test, the vascular surgeon may elect to open the blockage with a balloon or stent (a wire mesh). Opening the artery will allow appropriate blood supply to flow through the artery to the necessary body part.