Leg Pain is A Warning Sign for Vascular Disease

by Dr. Nitin Patel, MD, FACC, Cardiac Care

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a common condition affecting 12% to 20% of Americans 65 and older. It most commonly develops as a result of atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries” and restricts the flow of blood to the legs.

The most common symptom of PVD is called intermittent claudication, which is leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the activity stops. The pain can feel like cramps in the legs, including the hips, thighs or calves. Often the pain is severe enough to limit walking.

Other symptoms include:

  • Numbness, tingling in the legs and feet
  • Coldness in legs and feet
  • Ulcers or sores on legs, feet that don’t heal
  • Dry, fragile, shiny-looking skin

A variety of treatments are available for peripheral vascular disease, including lifestyle changes, medication and minimally invasive procedures used to unblock clogged arteries.

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing fat, cholesterol, simple carbohydrates; increasing fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats.
  • Losing weight
  • Limiting or quitting alcohol intake
  • Exercising 30 minutes or more daily
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Controlling high blood pressure