Ischemia of the lower extremities, also called leg ischemia, is reduced supply of oxygen to the leg tissue due to poor blood supply.
When blood supply to the legs is lower, the tissues of the legs are deprived of oxygen, when a pain occurs, similar to a cramp. Lower blood supply is most often a consequence of atherosclerosis (accumulation of fatty plaques on artery walls) whose effects are most visible on lower extremities. Persons with hereditary high level of cholesterol are more susceptible to atherosclerosis, as well as long-term diabetics.
Leg ischemia is the most severe form of peripheral arterial disease.
It occurs more often in men and persons older than 40.
The symptoms of ischemia of lower extremities are gradually developing, in months or years. More often, one extremity has more symptoms than the other. In early stages, the blood supply to the leg tissue may be sufficient while resting, but not during strain. The main symptom is pain in the feet and toes, with the following characteristics:
- it occurs during walking, and can be sharp
- it always occurs after walking a certain distance
- it occurs when walking uphill or at low temperatures
- it reduces when resting and disappears in several minutes
As the condition progresses, the distance after which the person feels the pain, reduces. And then the pain occurs during resting period, too. Other symptoms of this type of ischemia are:
- pale, cold feet
- persistent pain in the legs or foot ulcerations that don’t heal
If blood vessels in the pelvis are clogged, then the whole blood supply to the lower part of body is reduced, which causes pain in the buttocks, erectile dysfunction (in men). If the blood vessel is acute blocked by a thrombi, the symptoms may get worse. If left untreated, the tissue in the foot or leg may die (gangrene).
The cause of leg ischemia is partially or completely blocked artery by plaque, limiting the blood flow and reducing the oxygen supplied to the heart.
The risk factors for leg ischemia are:
- Smoking (90% of these patients are smokers)
- fat-rich diet
- lack of physical activities
The complications of leg ischemia are:
- heart attack
- limb loss