If you frequently suffer from leg pain, discomfort or fatigue, you may wonder: Are your legs just tired, or is it something more? Leg discomfort is a common (and often overlooked) warning sign of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) – a condition in which there is damage or blockage in the blood vessels distant from your heart.
In simplest terms, 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.
PVD commonly impacts vessels that supply your:
For men 45 and up and women 55 and up, screening for PVD is typically included in your annual exam. The screening includes questions about heart risk factors and assesses if you are showing symptoms of the condition, which can include pain or discomfort in the calves during walking, pain at rest and lower extremity wounds; think open sores on your legs or feet that aren’t healing.
Common risk factors for PVD include:
Don’t Ignore Leg Pain
The most common complaint from patients is pain in the calves with walking, which is relieved with rest. Unfortunately, many patients brush this symptom aside as a sign of aging and don’t address it with their doctor. If left untreated, PVD can lead to organ damage or even the loss of a limb.
I cannot say this enough: Don’t ignore leg pain. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Your doctor can do a simple test called ankle brachial index (ABI) to compare the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arms to determine if you have PVD. Once diagnosed, PVD can typically be managed with lifestyle changes and medication, as well as minimally invasive procedures for symptoms that are refractory (cannot be adequately controlled despite aggressive efforts) or severe.
Experiencing symptoms of PVD? Click here to schedule an appointment with an Ochsner physician.