Health & Wellness

Don’t Ignore that Leg Pain: Recognizing the Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease

doctor leg pain disease signsPeripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition that affects the arteries to the legs, arms, stomach, and head. PAD is most often caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the artery walls. Complications arise when plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the extremities. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are a smoker, you are at an increased risk for peripheral artery disease.

Although PAD can affect any peripheral extremity, it is most common in arteries to the legs. The reduced blood flow can cause pain in the hips and legs, and in extreme cases can even result in gangrene and amputation of the leg.

Some people with PAD experience mild symptoms, others have none at all.

For those who do show symptoms, the most common include:

  • Leg pain (typically in the calf) when walking or climbing stairs
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in the lower leg or foot
  • Wounds on the legs, feet, or toes that heal very slowly or do not heal at all
  • A change in leg color

There are several ways to diagnose PAD. Your doctor will typically begin with a physical exam to check for weak pulses in the legs. If PAD is suspected, your physician may want to order additional testing, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or another painless, non-invasive procedure.

If you are diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, you can take control of your health by leading a heart-healthy lifestyle and following the recommendations of your doctor. The condition has common symptoms, but some people ignore their symptoms and let the disease go undiagnosed and untreated. Learn the facts, consult your healthcare professional, and take control of your risk factors. You have the power to improve your heart health.

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Tom Hlady
5 years ago

Well done. Article gives examples of PAD as one reason for lower back and leg pain. Also really liked article on pain relievers It seems about time we get some more long acting and non addictive pain relievers.

Bess E Adair
5 years ago

My family doctor thinks there is nothing wrong with my left leg even though at times when I start to get up it puts me right back down with severe pain in behind the knee area, so when I press on the blood vessels muscles and tendons it helps just a tiny bit. It also runs down my back and lower body plus effects my upper body as well.

Whitney P. lewis
5 years ago

I have had PAD, self diagnosed, for several years – after many years of smoking and poor diet. My Doctor really has nothing to say about the condition, because i also have COPD and was borderline diabetic, until I lost 50 Lbs. I am now at 130 Lbs (age 80) and cannot indulge in my Doctors recommended therapy – more exercise – walking/exercise bike, problem is I have a trashed right hip and knee, so exercise is out. I have looked into Chelation and colloidal therapy, but have found it to be less than it claims or a blatant hoax. Any ideas would be welcomed.

Maria Rose
5 years ago

This is one area, that most doctors can easily check for but don’t even when they have an EKG machine in office. One should not need to go to a specialist to check how blood is circulating in your legs. I monitor my legs for any problems because of family history but have not had any check done by present doctor under the Obamacare program. ( I did have this checked prior which why I know how easy it can be checked in office.
PAD can be kept at minimum level by keeping mobile despite the pain because it helps the blood flow. ( All it takes is a short daily walk or in bad weather a short session on a stationary bike inside). It also helps to keep weight within a certain limit, which the minimum exercise will help maintain.
You need most of the symptoms listed above for your doctor to suggest further testing but to get to that point means you noticed problems way before that point. Anyone who stands all days will have achy legs.

5 years ago

I have had PAD for the past 10 years or so. My cardiologist suggested stents or walking for 30 minutes each day, one or the other. I chose walking. I was difficult at first but the pain eased after a period of time. I have been walking for six years each day and it easy. Very little pain, if any.

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