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Complications of peripheral vascular disease

2-minute read

Limb ischaemia

Limb ischaemia (lacking blood supply) occurs when blood flow to the limbs is severely restricted by fatty deposits on artery walls. It only happens in severe cases of peripheral vascular disease, and is a very serious situation.

Symptoms include:

  • A severe burning pain in your legs and feet even when you are resting; the pain often occurs at night and episodes of pain can last several hours.
  • Your skin turns pale, shiny, smooth and dry.
  • You have wounds and ulcers (open sores) in your feet and legs that show no sign of healing.
  • The muscles in your legs begin to waste away.
  • The skin on your toes or lower limbs become cold and numb and turns reddish and then black or begins to swell and produce foul-smelling pus, causing severe pain.

If you think you are developing the symptoms of limb ischaemia, contact your doctor immediately.

Treatment includes angioplasty or bypass graft. However, these may not always be successful and you may later require an amputation below the knee.

It is an extremely serious complication that can be challenging to treat and if combined with an infection can result in death.

Heart attacks or stroke

The cause of your peripheral vascular disease can also affect the arteries supplying blood to your heart and brain. If you have the condition, you're more likely to have angina, a heart attack, a stroke or coronary heart disease.

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Last reviewed: January 2018

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