Pain in the Legs: Could It Be Peripheral Artery Disease?
Have you noticed any changes when you go out for a walk, run or exercise? Do you have painful cramping of legs after a few minutes of physical activity? Peripheral artery disease (PAD) may be the cause of your leg pain and can lead to more serious complications.
What is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral arterial disease is atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which causes narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the legs and feet. If your vessels are blocked, that means your body isn’t getting the blood and oxygen it needs to function. And if your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, you’re in trouble.
Who gets Peripheral Artery Disease?
Risk factors for Peripheral Artery Disease include,
- Older than age 50
- Smoker or smoked in the past
- Diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Family members with Peripheral Artery Disease
What are the signs and symptoms?
One of the most common symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease is pain or cramp that comes on with activity and subsides when the activity is stopped.
- Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles after walking, running or climbing stairs.
- Numbness or loss of sensation in foot
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side.
- Sores (ulcer) that heal slowly or fail to heal.
- A change in the color of your legs
How is Peripheral Artery Disease Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease starts with a physical exam that includes checking the pulses in your legs.
Your doctor may order a simple test called ankle-brachial index (ABI) to compare the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arms. You may also undergo a vascular ultrasound to determine if a specific artery is blocked.
What are the treatment options?
Once diagnosed, peripheral arterial disease can typically be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. It's very important to quit smoking, as well as control of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Severe narrowing may need minimally invasive procedures to restore blood flow to the legs. Sometimes doctors can do this by passing a catheter into the blocked artery and inflating a balloon or placing a metal stent to open the blockage.
If left untreated, what could happen?
- Symptoms can sneak up on you over time as the buildup of plaque in the arteries occurs gradually.
- If left untreated, peripheral arterial disease can lead to loss of a legs or amputation.
What’s the takeaway?
- Don’t ignore leg pain! Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing above mentioned symptoms. Screenings for Peripheral Artery Disease are simple and convenient.
Make an appointment with Partha Sardar, MD