Painful Leg Cramps: Signs You May Have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
August 16, 2021

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is usually caused by an accumulation of fat deposits along the arteries. People who suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol are at increased risk of PAD. The accumulation of fat in the arteries that is characteristic of PAD makes the arteries narrow, significantly reduces blood flow and causes a variety of symptoms to manifest. 

Leg Symptoms

The most common symptom of PAD is onset of claudication, or leg cramps. The pain often begins after walking or exercising. These painful cramps can be located in the hips, calves, or thighs. For some patients, the pain is manageable and subsides after resting. Other patients experience more severe pain that can even prevent them from walking. 

In addition to leg pain, there are other sensations that patients with PAD report to their healthcare provider. These include leg numbness and a lower temperature in the lower leg or foot. The reduced blood flow that is typical for PAD can also make finding a pulse in the lower extremities difficult. 

Erectile Dysfunction

Men with peripheral artery disease may also experience erectile dysfunction. The lowered blood flow that is characteristic of PAD can prevent the body from efficiently redirecting blood to the genitalia, effectively preventing an erection. 

Medications used to treat erectile dysfunction in patients have also been show to help to treat PAD. Please consult your doctor before taking any medications.

Changes in Appearance

Not only can patients feel differences in their legs, they may also see physical changes in their appearance. This may include changes in the color of the skin, a shiny appearance to the legs, and even the emergence of sores that either heal slowly or won’t heal at all. Slower healing is directly related to the reduced blood flow to the extremities as is caused by PAD. 

Treatment Options

While most of these symptoms seem to cause annoyance, peripheral artery disease can lead to serious complications like critical limb ischemia, stroke, and even heart attack. As a result, it is imperative that patients with PAD receive appropriate treatment. Treatment options include laser atherectomy, balloon angioplasty, stenting, lower extremity bypass, and endarterectomy. 

Balloon angioplasty and stenting work in tandem. A wire is inserted into the femoral artery, where a surgeon can navigate to the arterial blockage. Once there, a balloon is inflated to flatten the blockage against the arterial wall, restoring blood flow. A stent is then placed before removing the balloon, to support the artery. 

Laser atherectomy is an excellent treatment option for patients who experience significant pain as a result of PAD. A laser is used to dissolve the fatty deposits that are clogging up the arteries. This procedure has the potential to resolve pain almost immediately. Patients are often able to move around without pain within days of the procedure. 

Patients suffering from peripheral artery disease can seek effective treatment options like these and more at South Valley Vascular. The healthcare providers here have provided a suite of vascular surgery services for nearly twenty years. Fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation today!