What is the arteritis of the lower limbs ? Symptoms and treatments

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In France, 3 % of the population is suffering from arteritis of the lower limbs, a proportion that rises to 20 % among those over 60 years. This obstruction progressive of the arteries of the legs can cause serious health problems in the absence of treatment : ulcers, gangrene, STROKE.

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What is the arteritis of the lower limbs ?

The arteritis of the lower limbs is a condition that affects the arteries of the legs, caused by a progressive deposition of cholesterol on the internal walls. The filing form of the atherosclerotic plaques that grow over time, which has for consequences to clog the arteries, partially or totally, disrupt blood flow, and reduce the intake of oxygen in the muscles. Sometimes, the atherosclerotic plaques crack ; fragments begin to migrate to other arteries, at the risk of causing a STROKE or heart disease.

The onset of the arteritis of the lower limbs was not a single and unique origin. It is related to the accumulation of risk factors : smoking, diabetes, overweight, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, and excess cholesterol. Age and male sex are also risk factors in the elderly, because the condition affects primarily men over 50 years of age. Finally, heredity seems to play a role, particularly when the father or the mother has applied for a cardio-vascular disease at the same age.

The symptoms of arteritis of the lower limbs

The arteritis of the lower limbs remained silent for a long time, which explains why it is often discovered by chance during a routine check-up or health check. The first symptoms appear when the clogging of the arteries begins to interfere with the circulation of the blood, and causes an ischemia of the muscles. The patient felt acute pains in the leg, during walking or climbing stairs, which are like muscle cramps and disappear at rest. The condition may be other symptoms such as a change of the skin of the legs (which becomes dry and pale), brittle nails, and disorders of the erection in men when the abdominal aorta is affected.

In the most severe cases, the pain is persistent even at rest (sitting or lying), the wounds on his legs are healing more and more pain, and ulcers form in the feet that can lead to the development of gangrene in the absence of treatment.

What is the treatment for the arteritis of the lower limbs ?

The medical treatment of arteriopathy of the lower limbs starts with a reduction of risk factors : final judgment of tobacco, diet and sports to lose weight, taking medication to reduce cholesterol, the diabetes and l’hypertension. The doctor may also recommend taking an anti-agrégant to prevent the formation of blood clots and a vasodilator to increase the diameter of the arteries, in order to fight againstatherosclerosis , while reducing the risk of a stroke or a myocardial infarction.
When the medical treatment proves ineffective, or when the syndrome is at an advanced stage, reconstructive surgery is needed : angioplasty, endarterectomy or bypass surgery.

Given the serious risks to the health, seniors should consult their doctor as soon as muscle pain causing claudication appear. Most pain is acute and persistent, the more the arteritis of the lower limbs is at an advanced stage, lead to a greater risk for the patient.

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