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Leg Pain When Walking

We all have aches and pains, and can usually attribute them to something we have done, like working out too hard, lifting something too heavy, playing a sport that we don’t usually play. But when we get older and experience leg cramps, fatigue, heaviness in the legs, or legs so weak or tight it hurts when walking, running or doing usually activities, and goes away with rest, it’s time to see a vascular expert at South Valley Vascular. These symptoms are the hallmark of peripheral artery disease. People who do experience pain may be tempted to write it off as not being in shape, or as just getting old, and put off getting help. This can be dangerous.

Leg pain when walking is not always caused by vascular problems. It could be due to nerve compression, irritation or damage in lower back,  including sciatica, lumbar spinal stenosis, and/or a herniated disc. The symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs and buttocks, with or without back pain. The pain may be a dull ache or severe shooting pain.

Leg pain can also be caused by arthritis in the knees and hips. Non-arthritic leg pain can also be caused by diabetic neuropathy, but is  most often due to poor circulation or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Diagnosis is necessary to determine the origin of your leg pain.

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

Leg pain or leg cramps in the thighs, calves, or hips when walking or climbing, that goes away when you stop or rest is the hallmark of PAD. This is called intermittent claudication. Symptoms of claudication include heaviness in the legs, as well as cramping. If the patient experiences pain when the legs are elevated at night this is a sign of advanced disease.

PAD is a serious condition that is linked to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. When these symptoms restrict your activity your doctor can diagnose your problem, and offer solutions to help you regain your active life.

PAD is also called Peripheral Vascular Disease or P.V.D. It is essentially hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) from accumulation of cholesterol plaque in the blood vessels of the organs, including the kidneys and stomach, and the extremities- the arms and legs. Most often it affects the legs, narrowing the blood vessels which restricts blood flow to the muscles in the legs and feet. Without sufficient oxygenated blood, the nerves and soft tissues can be damaged. This situation also increases the risk of infections. Prolonged decreased blood flow causes the death of the muscles and tissues, and can result the need for leg amputation.

Other symptoms can include the loss of hair on the feet and legs, leg weakness, a feeling of coldness in the legs or feet, numbness in the legs, brittle toenails, slow growing toenails, a change in the skin on the legs where the skin turns shiny, pale or bluish, and sores on the legs and feet that won’t heal. It may be difficult to find a pulse in the legs or feet. In men, the disease can appear as erectile dysfunction.

But about 50% of people with PAD have no symptoms at all. In  the U.S., it is estimated 20 million people suffer with PAD.

Risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Family history of PAD in first degree relatives
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Chronic kidney disease

If you have symptoms and are age of 70 or older, or over age 50 with some of the risk factors listed above, see the Vascular specialists at South Valley Vascular. The sooner you recognize the need for  help, the easier it is to treat this condition.

How can I live with PAD?

The affected body parts must be protected when there is reduced blood flow or blockages in the vessels. Decreased blood flow can lead to leg ulcers that do not heal. This puts the patient at risk for infection.

  • Keep your legs and feet covered.
  • Never walk barefoot.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes
  • Do not wear support hose as this can aggravate your condition
  • Examine your feet and legs daily to spot redness, sores and infections
  • Keep your legs and feet clean and moisturized
  • Treat cuts and scrapes so they don’t get infected
  • Get professional help if leg sores won’t heal
  • Take care of your feet
  • Get professional treatment for bunions, calluses and corns
  • Quit smoking
  • Control you weight
  • Eat healthy
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels low

The goal of treatment is to prevent a heart attack or stroke, reduce symptoms and complications, and improve your quality of life. South Valley Vascular is here to help.

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