If you frequently suffer from leg pain, discomfort or fatigue, you may wonder if your legs just tired, or if it is 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. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD) are often used interchangeably, although the term PAD includes arterial disorders. Both terms describe a condition that is caused by a narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the legs and feet, arms, brain, stomach or kidneys.
In the 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.
Peripheral vascular disease commonly impacts vessels that supply blood to your:
For men ages 45 and up and women ages 55 and up, screening for peripheral vascular disease is typically included in your annual physical. 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 while walking, pain at rest and lower extremity wounds like open sores on your legs or cuts on the feet that aren’t healing.
Common risk factors for PVD include:
Don’t Ignore Leg Pain
The most common complaint from patients is a pain in the calves while walking and goes away when resting. Unfortunately, many patients brush this symptom aside as a sign of aging and don’t address it with their doctor.
I cannot say this enough: Don’t ignore leg pain. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. If left untreated, PVD can lead to organ damage or even the loss of a limb. Peripheral vascular disease affects more than 10 million people across the United States. It’s more common than you might think, and symptoms can sneak up on you over time as the buildup of plaque in the arteries occurs gradually.
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.
Ochsner Vascular and Endovascular Surgeons are Nationally Recognized. Make an appointment with our team today.