Arterial diseases are diseases occuring when plaque gradually builds up and block arteries that carry blood to the limbs, organs and the head. Plaque is mainly made up of cholesterol, fibrous tissue, fat, calcium and other waste substances in the blood.
The build-up of plaque in the arteries causes a condition known as atherosclerosis. Plaque can harden over time and narrow the body’s arteries and this limits the flow of oxygenated blood to various parts of the body including your organs.
The most common symptoms of arterial diseases involve the lower extremities and they include cramping, tiredness or pain in the hip or leg muscles while climbing stairs or walking. This pain typically goes away with rest but might return when you start walking again.
Other symptoms or arterial diseases include:
Most people mistake the symptoms of arterial diseases for something else and this is the main reason why it often goes undiagnosed.
Factors that increase your chances of developing arterial diseases include:
Other less common causes of arterial diseases include blood vessel inflammation, unusual anatomy of your muscles or ligaments or limbs, injury to your limbs, a family history of arterial diseases, stroke or heart disease.
The tests doctors usually rely on to diagnose arterial diseases include:
- Physical examination
Your physician may find signs of arterial diseases during a physical exam such as an absent or weak pulse bellow narrowed areas of your arteries, bruits or whooshing sounds over the artery that is heard with a stethoscope, decreased blood pressure in affected limbs or poor wound healing in areas where blood flow is restricted.
Ultrasound imaging techniques can help your physician evaluate blood flow through the blood vessels and identify narrowed or blocked arteries. This includes techniques such as the Doppler ultrasound technique.
The doctor injects a contrast material (dye) into the blood stream and views blood flow through the arteries in order to trace the flow of the dye using special imaging techniques such as MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography), X-ray imaging or CTA (Computerized tomography Angiography)
- Blood tests
The doctor takes a sample of your blood and uses it to measure your triglycerides and cholesterol and to check for any signs of diabetes.
Arterial diseases are usually treated through medication and lifestyle changes. The main lifestyle changes that help ease the symptoms of arterial diseases include exercising regularly, stopping drinking and smoking, as well as dietary changes.
Although most arterial diseases usually affect the arteries in the limb especially the legs, these diseases can also affect arteries that carry blood from the heart to the head, stomach, kidneys, and arms. It’s also extremely essential to understand that arterial diseases can also increase your risk of stroke, transient ischemic attack and heart attack.
Arterial diseases can be potentially life threatening, therefore it is recommended to consult a vascular specialist early for an accurate diagnosis if you experience the symptoms described above.
To determine suitable treatments based on your health conditions, make an appointment with our vascular doctor for a comprehensive consultation and diagnosis.