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Should I Be Concerned About Leg Pain?

May 18, 2018 at 12:38 PM

Aches and pains are a normal part of getting older. But how do you know when to be concerned, especially when it is leg pain?

“Leg pain can be caused by a number of things, from arthritis to a simple strain. When you should be concerned, however, is painful cramping in your hips, thighs or calves when walking or using the stairs. That could be an indicator of Peripheral Artery Disease,” said David Lawrence, MD, FACS, vascular surgeon. “Many people with PAD go undiagnosed.”

PAD occurs when there is a blood flow blockage due to arteriosclerosis, or plaque build-up in the arteries. Often, the symptoms of PAD will go away when a person stops exercising, because resting muscles can get by with less blood flow. It is often undiagnosed or mistaken for other disorders. “Untreated, PAD is very dangerous,” Dr. Lawrence said. “It could eventually lead to loss of the affected leg. Those with PAD also have increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack.”

PAD leg pain occurs in the muscles, not the joints. Other symptoms include:

  • Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  • Foot or toe wounds that won't heal or heal very slowly
  • Gangrene, or dead tissue 
  • A marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot particularly compared to the other leg or to the rest of your body
  • Poor nail growth on the toes or hair growth on the legs

“The good news is, you can control most of the risk factors of PAD and see improvement in your condition,” Dr. Lawrence said. “Stopping smoking, losing weight, effectively managing your diabetes, keeping a close eye on your blood pressure, watching your cholesterol level and being more physically active can definitely help.”

To learn more about PAD or to be screened, contact the PCI Vein Center at (319) 362-5118.

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