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Are Leg Cramps A Sign of Peripheral Artery Disease?

Are Leg Cramps A Sign of Peripheral Artery Disease

Experiencing cramping the legs? Are you finding it more challenging to complete physical activities or everyday tasks because of constant leg cramps or pain? While leg cramps are relatively common, they can be a symptom of a more serious condition like PAD. If the cramps are severe or paired with other symptoms, it’s best to schedule a consultation with a vascular doctor to discuss treatment options. 

Here’s what you need to know about PAD leg cramps:

What Do Leg Cramps Feel Like?

Leg cramps are sudden and involuntary, characterized by sharp muscle pains that can occur in the calf, foot, or thigh. These cramps can grip leg muscles without warning, causing significant pain and muscle tightness and making the affected area difficult to move or relax.

This discomfort is often accompanied by a palpable hardening of the muscle, which can be momentarily debilitating. Commonly referred to as a ‘charley horse,’ these leg cramps are well known for their sudden onset and the intense pain they inflict, making it challenging to find relief quickly.

Cause of Leg Cramps

The most common causes of leg cramps are dehydration or muscle strains. Athletes experience leg cramps after an intense workout or physical activity. People who take corticosteroids like prednisone can also experience muscle cramps in the legs as a side effect.

These cramps are sudden, uncontrolled muscle contractions that can cause sharp pain, a quivering sensation, and ongoing aching. They often occur at night and can affect the hands and feet. Cramps from these causes are typically temporary, and the symptoms should lessen using self-care remedies.

However, if you don’t find relief after icing your legs or drinking more water, cramping in the legs may be a symptom of a more serious underlying health condition, like nerve damage or PAD.

You should consider scheduling a consultation for your leg cramps if you’re experiencing:

  • Severe cramps that won’t go away
  • Pain, weakness, or swelling in the legs
  • Consistent cramping throughout the day
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol 
  • Diabetes

These are all signs of a more serious underlying condition and should be taken seriously to prevent symptoms from worsening.

What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a vascular condition that impacts the lower extremities. It’s caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries. This excess plaque can restrict blood flow and oxygen to your legs, leading to leg pain, weakness, and cramping. These symptoms are typically paired with other symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin discoloration
  • Shiny skin
  • Slow or non-healing wounds

PAD leg cramps can be hard to live with. Severe leg cramps can make walking, climbing stairs, and completing daily activities more challenging. You may also have limited mobility and struggle with other physical or emotional challenges.

If you believe you’re experiencing leg cramping from PAD, consider scheduling a consultation with a vascular specialist. A vascular specialist will assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis.


Diagnosing PAD

Diagnosing PAD

If you’re experiencing cramping in the legs or other common symptoms of PAD, your first step is to get a PAD diagnosis from a vascular specialist. A vascular specialist will perform one or more of the following tests for your diagnosis:

These tests assess blood flow and identify artery blockages that may cause PAD leg cramps.

Exploring Treatment Options

If you’re still in the early stages of PAD, a vascular specialist may recommend one of three different outpatient treatments. Outpatient PAD treatments are minimally invasive and offer a quicker recovery than surgical intervention. The three different treatments your vascular specialist may recommend include:

  • Angioplasty: A balloon is inserted into your artery using a catheter. The balloon expands inside the affected artery and pushes the plaque against the artery walls. 
  • Stenting: A stent is placed into the artery after an angioplasty is performed. The stent is designed to keep the artery propped open.
  • Atherectomy: A laser or small blade is used to physically remove the plaque from the affected artery. 

PAD is a progressive disease. If you notice any PAD symptoms, the first step you should take is to schedule a consultation with a vascular specialist. These treatments can only benefit you if you’re in the early stages of PAD. If you have chronic leg pain or PAD leg cramps, consider scheduling a consultation with a vascular doctor as soon as possible to discuss your options. 


Preventative Measures for PAD

Preventative Measures for PAD

While PAD cannot be reversed, there are preventative measures you can take to lessen the severity of your symptoms. After your diagnosis, your vascular specialist may recommend:

Depending on the symptoms, your healthcare provider may also offer guidance on managing diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol levels.

Schedule a Consultation with a USA Vascular Centers

If you’re struggling with PAD leg cramps and are ready to get treatment, we’re here to help. At USA Vascular Centers, we have several convenient clinic-based locations in 12 different states. Our vascular doctors and specialists use state-of-the-art technology to treat and diagnose PAD. We’re here to provide expert recommendations based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition. Schedule a consultation today to get started. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Leg Cramping From PAD

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps are involuntary movements caused by the tightening of muscles. The cramping causes the muscles to tighten, which can impact mobility. 

Is leg cramping a symptom of PAD?

Yes. Leg cramping is one of the most common symptoms of PAD. Individuals who experience leg cramping from PAD typically also experience other symptoms, such as leg pain, weakness, or swelling.

Are leg cramps dangerous?

If the cramping in your legs is severe and makes everyday activities more challenging, it may be a sign of a serious underlying condition. If the pain is consistent, severe, or paired with other symptoms, you should consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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