If you get painful leg cramps when you walk or exercise, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Peripheral arterial disease is a narrowing or blockage of the arteries that leads to reduced blood flow to the arms and legs. PAD is most common in the legs.
At Desert Vein and Vascular Institute, we have various methods for treating PAD.
What causes PAD?
People who develop PAD commonly have atherosclerosis, which you’ve probably heard called “hardening of the arteries.” In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up on the inner walls of the arteries. Plaque is made of extra cholesterol, calcium, and other material in the blood. When it builds up on the walls of your arteries, it narrows and clogs the arteries and decreases blood flow. In the legs, this is sometimes known as lower extremity arterial disease. Now the arteries are unable to deliver enough blood to the legs and feet, hence the cramping and pain common with PAD when a person is walking. In its most advanced stage, this narrowing can lead to tissue necrosis, even possible amputation.
What are the symptoms of PAD?
Classic symptoms of PAD in the legs include a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in the calf, thigh, or buttock after walking, running, or exercising. The pain often subsides as soon as the activity is stopped. This is known as claudication. The reason it occurs when walking is that the leg muscles require more oxygen-rich blood during exercise but can’t get it due to the decreased circulation.
If atherosclerosis progresses, pain may develop in the toes or feet even when the person is resting. This is known as “rest pain,” and shows the arterial disease is reaching a critical stage.
These are additional sign/symptoms of lower extremity arterial disease:
- Decreased hair growth on the legs and toes
- Paleness of the leg or foot when elevated
- Inability to feeling a pulse in the feet
- Blue/red discoloration of the foot when hanging downward
- Coolness of the leg or foot
- A sore on the foot that does not heal
With these symptoms, the patient is in danger of losing possible toes or even a foot. The blockage needs to be addressed.
The goal is to manage symptoms so that physical activities can be resumed. Plus, we want to stop the progression of atherosclerosis throughout the body to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. To do so, we will introduce various lifestyle changes, possible use of medications, and possible endovascular repair where we use angioplasty/stenting, atherectomy, or arterial bypass.
Do you have cramping legs or aching feet? You may be suffering from PAD. Call the team at Desert Vein and Vascular, (623) 847-3884, and make an appointment to have your condition checked out.