At some time or another, everyone experiences leg pain, cramps, and charley horses. No matter what you call it, leg pain is usually not serious. Most of the time, it is caused by inactivity or dehydration. Sometimes, however, cramps and leg pain occur frequently, stopping sufferers in their tracks. At these times, leg pain might be serious, as it can be an indication of peripheral arterial disease.

Know the risk factors and take action.

What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?

Sometimes referred to as peripheral vascular disease, peripheral arterial disease is characterized by a narrowing or blockage of a person’s arteries, which are the vessels that deliver blood to limbs and major organs. Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque composed mostly of fat, cholesterol and calcium, often causes the narrowing of arteries responsible for peripheral vascular disease.

Individuals with peripheral arterial disease often experience no symptoms. However, PAD sometimes causes claudication, which is numbness or aching pain in the legs when walking or climbing stairs. This occurs when the leg muscles doing the work of walking or climbing do not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. Although most common in the legs, peripheral arterial disease can also affect the circulatory system in other parts of the body, such as the arms, head, and organs.

Left untreated, peripheral arterial disease can lead to more serious medical problems like stroke, heart attack, or the loss of a limb.

Risk Factors and Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease

The risk factors of peripheral arterial disease are very similar to those associated with cardiovascular disease. They include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • smoking

If you are diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease, there are steps you can take with your doctor to treat and manage the disease, such as:

  • Medication– Pharmaceutical treatment can be useful for certain patients. These medications, however, have side effects that should be discussed with a doctor.
  • Exercise– Regular exercise, as simple as a 30-minute daily walk, strengthens existing blood vessels and spurs on the development of new ones.
  • Quit Smoking– Dropping this habit improves circulation.

Concerned about Leg Pain or Numbness? Schedule an Appointment at Abella Health

Persistent leg pain, numbness, or heaviness should not be ignored. If you are at all concerned about swelling or pain in your legs, make an appointment with Dr. Abella.