Leg Pain Vascular Causes
Vascular (circulatory) causes of leg pain include any condition that interferes with circulation of the blood and lymph. Many people ignore leg or arm swelling and pain as a normal change due to aging. Below are several vascular conditions that can result in pain in the legs.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD is due to impaired blood flow to the legs which is commonly caused by hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. PAD increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Reduced blood flow to the legs can injure the surrounding tissues and nerves. When there is not enough oxygen flowing to the leg muscles there will be pain, ache, fatigue, burning and discomfort in the muscles of the feet, calves and thighs. The most common symptom of PAD is painful muscle cramping (claudication) that occurs when walking, climbing or exercising. When the pain stops with rest this is called Intermittent Claudication.
In severe PAD, you may experience new symptoms, including impotence, leg pain and cramping at night, pain and tingling in the feet or toes, pain that gets worse when you raise the legs and improves when legs return to normal position. Calf muscles can shrink. You may lose hair on your legs. There may be painful sores that are difficult to heal. Your toes may turn blue, and your toenails can thicken.
PAD can be confused with diabetic neuropathy. The board-certified vascular surgeons at South Valley Vascular in Visalia, Porterville and Hanford, California are experts at diagnosing the cause of your leg pain.
The underlying cause of varicose veins is venous insufficiency. In healthy veins, the valves control blood flow and return blood to the heart. When the valves in these veins are damaged or destroyed, blood pools in the veins. This process creates the familiar dark blue, tortuous veins that you recognize as varicose veins.
Valve dysfunction can be hereditary, the result of a deep vein thrombus or blood clot, and sometimes vein valves can fail without a reason. There may be no symptoms. Venous insufficiency feels like heaviness in the legs, with some pain and swelling. Skin darkening and leg ulcers can develop.
Deep Vein Thrombus (DVT)
Deep vein thrombus is development of a blood clot, due to poor blood flow in the legs. Inactivity, injury and blood vessel damage are common causes. DVT is a serious condition because the clot can break loose and travel to your lungs (a pulmonary embolism), which can damage your lungs and lower oxygen levels which can damage other organs.
Cancer and genetic diseases can cause the blood to clot too easily. And, some medications like hormone therapy can cause clots to form.
DVT can occur suddenly without warning. There may be swelling, pain, redness and heat at the location of the blood clot. Blood tests and ultrasound are diagnostic tests for DVT.
The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and vessels that collect and carry lymph fluid back to the heart. It is part of the immune system that filters out harmful substances and sends out white blood cells to fight infection. The lymph vessels contain one-way valves that work with the muscles to remove the lymph fluid.
Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage in the lymph system that prevents the lymph fluid from draining which results in swelling in the arms and/or legs. It’s typically the result of surgery, trauma, infection or radiation.
Symptoms of lymphedema are swelling and heaviness, tightness and itching in the affected area. Increased fluid accumulation creates an inflammatory reaction that causes scar tissue, which makes it even more difficult for excess fluid to be removed. This process can delay delivery of oxygen and impair wound healing. Lymphedema is commonly a chronic condition that can be controlled. If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible changes and poor quality of life.
Quick, accurate diagnosis is essential to identify appropriate treatment. If you have a long history of painless swelling in the legs following removal or damage to lymph nodes, a vascular surgeon can diagnosis lymphedema from a patient history, symptoms and physical examination. Additional testing is generally not necessary, but can be used to evaluate changes in the condition.
The vascular experts at South Valley Vascular in Visalia, Porterville and Hanford, California specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases and conditions of the blood vessels. Our vascular surgeons will determine a treatment plan that provide the best benefits for your specific needs.