Calcium is an essential ion for many metabolic pathways in your body, neural activities and regulation of heart rate. The amount of calcium that you need everyday depends on your age, gender and other health issues. Talk to your doctor about the optimum level of daily calcium intake.
As calcium is transported through the bloodstream and found in every cell of your body, calcium deposits may occur in almost any part of your body, but it’s more common and lifestyle limiting in your leg arteries, heart and brain arteries.
Calcium deposits may occur due to specific disorders, such as:
- Calcium metabolism disorder
- Autoimmune disorders affecting the skeletal system
- Infections and persistent inflammation
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- High levels of sugar in the blood
- High levels of cholesterol
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
If you frequently take calcium carbonate supplements such as Tums, cholesterol and blood pressure medication, or hormone replacement therapy, then your risk of raising calcium level in your body increases.
Calcium deposit in the arteries or arterial calcification is common among patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease. The condition can result in vessel mineralization and bone demineralization. In addition to arteries, calcium may also accumulate in the liver, kidney and spleen.
Calcium deposits occur due to the accumulation of plaque (fatty deposits) along arterial walls. The more plaque in your arteries, the more calcium deposits will be there- this is known as “Calcium Score.”
Complications of Calcium Deposits
A high calcium score is also associated with the increased risk of developing heart problems over a long period of time. The health of the heart is significantly at risk if there is a large amount of calcium deposits in the aorta and coronary arteries. Calcium deposits that develop in the arteries of the brain can cause dizziness, slurred speech, severe headache and memory loss. Calcium deposits in the leg arteries can result in the development of peripheral artery disease or PAD that causes the reduced blood supply to the leg muscles. Advanced stages of PAD can cause tissue death and necessitate amputation.
Although there are no proven ways to prevent calcification, smoking cessation, exercise, reducing your sodium intake and adding more green vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts to your diet can help in reducing calcium buildup in your arteries.
The Link Between Calcium Deposits and Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD happens when there is a buildup of fatty materials, known as plaque, in your leg arteries. Calcium deposits occur due to the buildup of fatty plaque because of high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and other factors in the blood. This condition is also known as atherosclerosis. Calcification can also cause the stiffening of arteries. Arteries most commonly blocked due to calcium deposits include iliac arteries in the pelvis, superficial femoral artery or SFA, and infrapopliteal artery below the knee.
Some hardening of the arteries with age is normal but the below group of individuals are at an increased risk of developing PAD:
- Age over 50
- High level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Chronic and heavy drinking
Early detection of calcium deposits may help in preventing the development of PAD, heart and brain problems. Calcium deposits in arteries (arterial calcification) is associated with an increased risk of limb events, including amputation. In the case of PAD, calcium deposits in leg arteries can result in numbness in the legs, tingling sensation and muscle pain.
At USA Vascular Centers, our PAD doctors will begin your diagnosis with some tests and examinations to ascertain the presence of PAD in your legs and deciding on a treatment plan.
These tests may include:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI): Blood pressure in your ankle and arm will be measured with the help of a special ultrasound device. If the blood pressure is found to be low in your ankle compared to that of your arm, it could be indicative of PAD as low blood pressure could be due to blockage in your leg arteries.
- Ultrasound: Images obtained through ultrasound can help your doctor evaluate the blood flow and extent of blockage in your leg arteries.
- Exercise stress test: It involves walking on a treadmill, usually for 5 minutes or until you must stop due to discomfort in your legs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): The test makes use of magnetic fields and radio waves to show blockages inside your arteries.
- Computed tomography (CT): Specialized X-rays are used to get details of artery blockages.
- Angiography: The test uses contrast dye to film the blood flow in your arteries to know the exact location of the blockage.
CT and MRI are highly sensitive methods to assess the extent of calcium deposits in the leg arteries. Angiography is helpful in determining the degree of calcification in vessels located below the knee (tibial vessels) and the superficial femoral artery or SFA.
How Does Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Develop?
When any of these main arteries get blocked due to calcium and fatty deposits, smaller arteries, known as collateral pathways take over the function of supplying blood to the leg muscles. These smaller arteries are good at supplying blood to the leg muscles when a person is at rest, but they can’t supply sufficient amount of blood when he is or she is exercising, climbing or doing physically demanding jobs as leg muscles need more blood and oxygen, and the arteries aren’t able to quickly fulfill this increased demand of blood due to blockage. So, a person with PAD experiences pain while exercising, climbing, running or walking, that subsidizes when they rest. PAD symptoms get worse over time unless treated.
Seek help from a medical professional if any of the following symptoms apply to you:
- If you have foot pain while resting
- There are sores on your feet that are hard to heal
- You experience pain at rest
- There is coldness or tingling sensation in the leg
- Your toe looks bluish or black and may hurt
PAD treatment at the USA Vascular Centers is done with the help of a special procedure, known as balloon stent angioplasty. This minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure is used to open or expand blocked arteries. A small balloon will be inserted into a medical device, known as the catheter, which is a thin flexible tube with a mounted camera.
Procedure to Place a Stent to Open Blockages in Legs
A specialist will insert the catheter through a small incision, usually made in the groin, and then guide the catheter through the artery to the location of the blockage. They will then inject a harmless dye into the catheter to see the exact location of the blockage in your artery on an X-ray monitor. Once the doctor locates the blockage, the balloon is inflated to push the calcium and plaque deposits against the artery wall. A stent or wire mesh scaffold is then placed with the help of specially designed catheters at the blockage site, opened by the balloon for healthy blood flow. The specialist then removes the balloon and catheter while the stent will be left in place.
Non-Surgical Treatment for PAD
Balloon stent angioplasty is a PAD non-surgical treatment, which is not as hard on your body as a surgery, and the recovery is faster. You will most likely be discharged on the same day of your procedure and fit to return to normal activities within a week. This PAD non-surgical treatment does not require open surgery and is highly effective in treating your PAD symptoms. Drug coated stents have been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration that slowly release medications to keep the artery from narrowing again, a condition medically known as restenosis.
Have a no-obligation PAD non-surgical treatment consultation at the USA Vascular Centers by calling us at 888-773-2193 or schedule online. We have centers throughout the length and breadth of the USA that you can visit to get yourself examined and diagnosed for PAD symptoms.
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