Arterial Insufficiency: Everything You Need to Know

What is Arterial Insufficiency?

  • Any condition slowing or stopping blood flow
  • Arteries are the affected vessels
  • Arteries transport blood from the heart to body parts
  • This leads to decreased blood flow
  • Arteries are blocked or narrowed

Arterial insufficiency is a blood condition characterized by decreased or lack of flow of blood from the heart to other body parts. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart and when they are blocked or narrowed, due to various reasons, blood flow is reduced or stopped, which leads to arterial insufficiency. The narrowing of arteries, regardless of the cause, is called stenosis (Morley et al., 2018).

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Symptoms (Organs and Tissues)

  • Loss of hair in feet and legs
  • Leg pain when walking (claudication) (Cooke & Chen, 2015)
  • Muscle pain and cramping
  • Numbness and general weakness
  • Malaise, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, and fatigue

When arteries are blocked or narrowed blood supply to organs and tissues is stopped or reduced. This means that the affected organs do not receive the required oxygen for proper functioning. Therefore, symptoms such as muscle cramping are present because the muscular system is not supplied with enough oxygen. Similarly, numbness and general body weakness are experienced. Peripheral organs suffer the most because blood flowing through constricted arteries may not reach those regions.

Symptoms (System Functioning)

  • The cardiovascular system is affected
  • Dysfunctional nervous system affecting the brain
  • The muscular system is affected
  • Failure of the renal system
  • The digestive system is affected

Generally, the lack of blood in a body affects all the systems. The body runs on blood, which has to be oxygenated frequently for proper functioning. Therefore, blocked or narrowed arteries prevent enough blood from reaching all the body systems. This explains why all body systems are dysfunctional in the presence of arterial insufficiency.

Diagnosis

  • Physical exam
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound scan
  • Angiography

Doctors can diagnose this condition through physical examination by feeling the pulse in arteries. ABI is commonly used for this condition and it compares blood in the ankles and arms (Chang et al., 2018). Blood tests are conducted to assess the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood as they cause the narrowing of arteries. Ultrasound helps to evaluate the flow of blood in arteries and identify the blocked or narrowed ones. Angiography could also be used whereby dye is injected into the blood system as a contrast material to allow the real-time monitoring of blood flow in arteries (Chang et al., 2018).

Pharmacological Intervention

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Mediation to lower blood pressure
  • Drugs to prevent blood clotting
  • Drugs to control blood sugar
  • Symptom relieving medication

One of the causes of the narrowing of arteries is the accumulation of cholesterol deposits on the inner wall of these blood vessels (Cooke & Chen, 2015). Therefore, medication lowering cholesterol prevents this accumulation. Blood pressure-lowering medications work in different ways including thinning the blood for it to flow easily through the vessels, and thus they could be used. Drugs preventing blood clotting are also used as this could lead to arterial insufficiency. Similarly, diabetes medications are also used in case a person is diabetic. Additionally, drugs could also be administered to relieve symptoms.

Non-pharmacological Intervention

  • Increased regular physical exercise
  • Observing balanced diet
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight loss
  • Herbal remedies

Regular exercising helps the body to recover from this condition by increasing the flow of blood in the arteries. It also reduces the accumulation of cholesterol in the vessels. A balanced diet, especially one that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat plays a major role as it improves blood flow. Smoking cessation helps in the prevention of heart-related problems and the thickening of blood vessels (Morley et al., 2018). Excessive weight contributes significantly to the accumulation of fat deposits on blood vessels, hence losing extra pounds would reverse this condition. Finally, some herbal concoctions could be used to improve blood flow.

Summary

  • Reduced or stopped blood flow characterizes arterial insufficiency
  • Symptoms -numbness, muscle cramping
  • Affects all systems of the body
  • Diagnosed via physical examination among others
  • Treated pharmacologically and non-pharmacologically

Arterial insufficiency is characterized by reduced or stopped flow of blood from the heart to other body parts. Symptoms are many ranging from muscle cramping to general body weakness as it affects all body systems. It can be diagnosed in a variety of ways including a physical examination. Treatment involves drugs that increase blood flow and reduce the thickening of blood vessels. It could be prevented non-pharmacologically through lifestyle and dietary changes.

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Role of Nurse Practitioner

  • Educate patients about the disease
  • Encourage healthy living
  • Encourage routine check-ups
  • Conduct research on the disease
  • Employ evidence-based practices

Nurses could use the available information on this condition to employ evidence-based practices when dealing with patients. They could also educate patients on the early signs and symptoms and encourage them to live healthily and avoid smoking as preventive measures. Nurses could also conduct research in this field to contribute to the available knowledge about arterial insufficiency.

References

Chang, Y., Kim, J., Kim, M. H., Kim, Y. J., & Song, T. J. (2018). Interarm blood pressure difference is associated with early neurological deterioration, poor short-term functional outcome, and mortality in noncardioembolic stroke patients. Journal of Clinical Neurology, 14(4), 555–565. Web.

Cooke, J. P., & Chen, Z. (2015). A compendium on peripheral arterial disease. Circulation Research, 116(90), 1505-1508. Web.

Morley, R. L., Sharma, A., Horsch, A. D., & Hinchliffe, R. J. (2018). Peripheral artery disease. BMJ, 360, 1-8. Web.

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