Femoral artery symptoms

Updated February 21, 2017

Symptoms of problems with the femoral artery are often painful and in severe cases can become serious problems affecting the entire leg. Although the femoral artery is positioned in the thigh, symptoms affecting the entire leg can be a result of a blocked femoral artery.

The Femoral Artery

The femoral artery is an important artery for supplying blood and nutrients to the thigh, groin and abdominal wall. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The femoral artery has many branches that run into the thigh pumping blood into the thigh and the lower portions of the leg.

Blocked Femoral Artery

The femoral artery can become blocked meaning that the leg does not receive enough blood or oxygen, this results in a condition called Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) which can also be referred to as leg artery disease. PAD becomes more common with age, by the age of 70 it is estimated that one in three people are affected by PAD.

Severe PAD

PAD can become more severe producing painful sores on the toes and feet, if the circulation problems do not improve, these sores can become ulcers. In extreme cases, ulcers can become grey or black, that is a result of dead tissue that is referred to as gangrene.

Intermittent Claudication

An early symptom of problems with the femoral artery is Intermittent Claudicating (IC). The word claudicating comes from the Latin term "to limp." IC is most common in a branch running from the femoral artery called the popliteal artery, and the clogged artery results in pain in the affected leg that is linked to exercise such as walking but goes away when resting. The symptoms of IC are not always pain but can begin as heaviness, cramping and a weakness in the leg. As the condition progresses, the symptoms of IC take effect over shorter distances and can become worse when walking uphill or climbing stairs.

Ischemic Rest Pain

Ischemic rest pain is a more severe femoral artery condition than IC that results in arteries so blocked that even rest does not relieve the pain sufferers feel in the legs. Ischemia is a medical term that basically means insufficient blood flow to the tissues. This lack of blood flow begins with symptoms such as painful, tingling feet and toes. As cases become more severe, symptoms worsen and can result in the weight of bed sheets and clothes worsening the pain in the legs. Elevating the legs can worsen symptoms while dangling the legs over the side of a bed can reduce pain.

Other Symptoms

There are other symptoms and signs of problems with the femoral artery. These symptoms are not always painful and are usually early signs of a problem. On the legs the calf muscles can become shrivelled or withered, the skin on the legs and feet can become shiny and tight. Symptoms affecting the feet include hair loss over the feet and toes, the toenails can also become affected with a thickening of the nail occurring.

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About the Author

Paul Cartmell began his career as a writer for documentaries and fictional films in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Working in documentary journalism, Cartmell wrote about a wide variety of subjects including racism in professional sports. Cartmell attended the University of Lincoln and London Metropolitan University, gaining degrees in journalism and film studies.