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Atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities: symptoms and treatment

Atherosclerosis is a vascular pathology caused by the deposition of cholesterol and other lipid-like compounds on their walls. This happens due to metabolic disorders, and the formation of large plaques can lead not only to a narrowing of the lumen, but also to a complete blockage of the artery. About atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities, the symptoms and treatment of this disease will now be described in detail.


Atherosclerosis of vessels of the lower extremities, what is it?

Atherosclerosis of vessels of the lower extremities

Atherosclerosis of the lower extremities affects the arteries of the legs, and the appearance of plaques is more often observed in the places of their ramifications. The mechanism of development of pathology is as follows:

  • due to various factors, lipid and protein components are deposited on the walls of the vessels, which causes a narrowing of the artery lumen;
  • without early treatment, atherosclerotic plaques form, they clog the vessel;
  • the blood circulation in this area is first broken, and subsequently blocked, the lymph flow is also disturbed;
  • oxygen deficiency develops in the tissues, which provokes the formation of trophic and gangrenous lesions.

The complete overlap of the artery with cholesterol deposits is called obliteration, or occlusion. Vascular atherosclerosis of the lower extremities is obliterated by a disease of the vessels, accompanied by a steady narrowing of their lumen, an increase in the volume of plaques and impaired blood circulation.

Risk factors for the development of pathology are overweight, obesity and overeating, the presence in the diet of a large amount of fat and carbohydrates, hypertension, vegetative-vascular dystonia. Smoking is one of the dangerous provocateurs.

The causes of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities are also:

  • Alphalipoproteinemia, or an abnormal metabolism of proteins and fats in the body, is also called Tangier's disease;
  • hypodynamia;
  • hyperfibrinogenemia - when the level of fibrinogen in the blood is above normal;
  • postmenopausal period;
  • monocytosis - high content of monocytes in the blood;
  • hypothyroidism - insufficient production of thyroid hormones;
  • diabetes;
  • Chediak-Higashi syndrome - the presence of granules in leukocytes and in the bone marrow, causing severe purulent infections;
  • genetic predisposition;
  • severe stress;
  • vascular damage by viruses, bacteria or toxins;
  • the effect of ionizing radiation;
  • chronic granulomatous disease;
  • excessive production of hormones testosterone, estrogen, progesterone;
  • homocystinuria - impaired metabolism of the amino acid methionine.

Symptoms of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities

Symptoms of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities

Symptoms of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities can not manifest for a long time, the first noticeable signs appear when the blood circulation in the arteries is already broken. A characteristic symptom is intermittent claudication, severe pain while walking.

Painful sensations occur in the calves of the legs, thighs, in the hip, they subside after stopping, and when walking continues, they appear again. Such symptoms are caused by the lack of oxygen in the working muscles due to insufficient blood flow to them.

Other symptoms of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities include:

  • numbness of the fingers or feet entirely;
  • blueness or blanching of the skin;
  • chilliness of the lower limbs;
  • calf cramps, usually at night;
  • rapid onset of fatigue when walking and any movement of the legs.

A characteristic sign of atherosclerosis is the lack of a pulse in the arteries of the legs, which in its normal state can be easily felt on the thigh, on the inner sides of the ankles and in the popliteal fossa.

Signs of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities photo

Signs of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities photo

In the later stages , more serious lesions develop:

  • amyotrophy;
  • hair loss on the legs;
  • trophic ulcers;
  • deformation and brittleness of the nail plates;
  • gangrene.

Stage (degree) of atherosclerosis of vessels of the lower extremities:

  1. I - pain in the legs appear only with prolonged exertion;
  2. II - painful sensations begin when passing about 200 meters;
  3. III - pain occurs immediately after the start of the movement and even at rest;
  4. IV - trophic ulcers and gangrene are formed.

Diagnosis of atherosclerosis

Hardware and laboratory tests are carried out after a survey, a general examination of the patient, pulse measurement and blood pressure in the arteries of the legs. The latter is usually elevated compared with the norm in the early stages of atherosclerosis and is almost halved in the obliteration stage.

The methods used in the diagnosis of atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities reveal pathology at the earliest stages.

These include:

  • X-ray angiography is used to assess the location and extent of cholesterol deposits;
  • duplex scanning, which determines the degree of obliteration of the vessels;
  • CT angiography - shows the state of the tissues of the arteries in layers;
  • blood tests - to determine the level of cholesterol and lipid balance.

Oscillometry and oscillography are needed for a general assessment of the condition of the arteries, but do not allow for the diagnosis of the disease in its early stages.

Methods of treatment of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities

Treatment of lower limb atherosclerosis

Treatment of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities includes adherence to therapeutic diets, physiotherapy and the use of drugs. The general rules are:

  1. The first thing to do is treat comorbidities, be it chronic inflammation, diabetes, or hypertension;
  2. Shoes should be comfortable and not tight;
  3. It is important not to overcool the feet;
  4. Physical activity should be moderate - it is useful to engage on a stationary bike, swim, walk daily for at least 30 minutes;
  5. Body weight is important to maintain normal;
  6. Pedicure should be done carefully, avoiding damage to the skin, and carefully treat any wounds on the legs with antiseptics;
  7. Smoking and drinking should be abandoned.

Diet for atherosclerosis of the lower limbs provides for the rejection of food with a high content of fats and simple carbohydrates - lard, sausage, fatty meats, fried foods, sweet pastries and white bread, mayonnaise.

The diet should consist of foods low in cholesterol - vegetables and fruits, cereals, vegetable oils, dairy products with a low percentage of fat.

Drug treatment

Drug treatment of atherosclerosis of the legs

Of the drugs in the treatment of atherosclerosis of the leg vessels are used:

  • drugs to prevent blood clots - Reopoliglyukin, Aspirin;
  • anticoagulants with angioprotective action, that is, strengthening and protecting the walls of blood vessels, - Heparin, Venarus, Warfarin;
  • vasodilators - Vazonit, Pentillin, Vazaprostan, Trenal, Cilostazol and Pentoxifylline help to improve the blood flow and reduce painful sensations when moving;
  • antimicrobial ointments applied with trophic ulcers - Levomekol, Oflokain;
  • antispasmodics to reduce pain and relieve spasms in the calves - Drotaverin, Spazgan;
  • agents that improve tissue trophism, for example, Zincteral;
  • vitamins;

Novocain is often administered by electrophoresis.


Surgical treatment is indicated for severe complications. Depending on the course of atherosclerosis and individual patient indicators, the following procedures can be applied:

  • autodermoplastika aimed at the treatment of trophic ulcers that are not amenable to conservative therapy;
  • shunting, in which around the place of narrowing of the lumen in the vessel creates an additional path for blood flow;
  • endarterectomy — removal of a portion of an artery along with a plaque;
  • balloon angioplasty - a micro balloon is introduced into the vessel to expand the lumen;
  • artery stenting - placement in the artery spacers in the form of a tube to maintain the normal diameter of the vessel;
  • prosthetics is to replace the affected area of ​​the vessel with an artificial analogue;
  • Amputation of a part or whole limb is used for extensive necrotization, after which a prosthesis can be installed.

Folk remedies

Folk treatment for atherosclerosis of the lower extremities is considered as a supplement to the therapy prescribed by the doctor, and should be applied after consulting a specialist. There are many recipes, here are some of them:

  • combine olive and sea buckthorn oils in equal volumes and rub into affected areas three times a day;
  • Dill seed infusion taken 4 times a day, 50 g, and is prepared at the rate of 1 tbsp. l 250 ml of water;
  • make an infusion of herbs - sage, chamomile, train, St. John's wort, plantain, taken 1 tsp. 300 ml of hot water - and take 1/2 cup twice a day;
  • 1.5 Art. l collection of flowers of Hypericum, chamomile, sage, succession and leaves of plantain brew 300-350 ml of boiling water, drink half a cup twice a day.

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