Life can be a whirlwind, even as you enter middle age and beyond. If you’ve been experiencing an irritating ache or pain, it’s all too easy to ignore the symptom until it gets bad enough to disrupt your daily life. In many cases, however, it’s better to set up an appointment with a doctor to get any aches checked out. Take leg pain, for example. While it may not seem like an urgent symptom of a serious condition, aching or cramping in the legs could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD).
PAD is a vascular condition caused by plaque accumulation inside the arteries that lead to your legs and feet. At USA Vascular Centers, our mission is to educate the public about this common yet underdiagnosed condition and provide PAD treatments to help open narrowed arteries. PAD is serious because blood can’t effectively reach the lower extremities when plaque builds up enough to clog the arteries. This means the muscles and other tissues can’t get the oxygen they need to function properly, resulting in aching legs and other symptoms.
Without treatment, PAD only gets worse. People with peripheral artery disease have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. Complications of PAD include gangrene, amputation, and even death. If you live with leg pain, particularly lower leg pain, it’s time for a PAD screening. At USA Vascular Centers, our board-certified vascular doctors lead the country in PAD expertise and will help determine if your leg pain is a result of PAD.
Leg Pain and Peripheral Artery Disease
PAD leg pain or cramping, also called claudication, occurs because the muscles aren’t getting the oxygenated blood they need to keep up with the body’s demands. The muscles in our legs need plenty of oxygen to contract, but PAD inhibits this process. In the early stages of PAD, your legs may stop aching once you sit down and rest. Leg pain that comes and goes like this is known as intermittent claudication. Over time, however, clogged arteries will only get worse. Late-stage PAD is often marked by constant leg pain as the cells in your lower extremities struggle to receive any oxygen or nutrients at all.
While many people experience a cramping feeling in their legs with PAD, others might experience more of a tingling or burning sensation. PAD leg pain can occur in the buttocks, thighs, or hips, but it’s most common in the calves.1 In addition to lower leg pain, PAD symptoms may include toenails that stop growing, slow-growing leg hair, and shiny skin on the legs.
What Are the PAD Risk Factors?
Diabetes and smoking are two of the biggest risk factors for PAD. Other factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, an inactive lifestyle, obesity, age, and a family history of vascular disease. If you’re experiencing lower leg pain, live with any of these PAD risk factors, or are over 50, schedule a PAD screening as soon as possible.
Our online PAD risk assessment quiz can help you check if you’re at risk for PAD. The quiz will ask you about leg pain, risk factors, age, lifestyle habits, and health conditions to help determine your PAD risk. If you score a number over 10, contact us for a consultation with a vascular doctor.
Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease Leg Pain
The vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers can diagnose PAD using various methods, including physical exams, ankle-brachial index tests, and angiograms. Our vascular specialist will ask you about your symptoms, including whether you’ve felt any leg pain. Make sure you provide all possible details, including when your legs started to ache and how often they hurt.
During a physical exam, the doctor will check the pulse in your lower limbs, analyze the temperature of your legs, and examine your feet for open sores that signal poor circulation. With an ankle-brachial index test, the doctor can measure and compare the blood flow in your arms and legs. The result will indicate whether or not you have a blockage in the arteries leading to your lower limbs.
For an angiogram, contrast dye will be injected into your vascular system. Then, using X-ray imaging, the doctor can locate the blockages in your arteries causing peripheral artery disease leg pain.
Peripheral Artery Disease Leg Pain Treatment
To treat aching legs as a result of PAD, plaque must be compressed or removed to allow blood flow to your legs and feet. The highly skilled vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers perform three minimally invasive procedures to help open narrowed arteries: atherectomy, angioplasty, and stent placement. All three of these non-surgical procedures are performed using leading-edge catheterization techniques at our onsite cath labs.
An atherectomy involves threading a blade- or laser-tipped catheter into the vascular system and removing plaque from the artery walls. For angioplasty, the doctor inserts a balloon-tipped catheter into your vascular system and inflates it at a blockage. This compresses the plaque against the artery walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. The doctor may add a mesh stent after angioplasty to prop the passageway open. These non-surgical procedures can help you avoid serious PAD complications, including foot or leg amputation.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are concerned that you might have PAD, it’s time to visit one of our vascular doctors. Give us a call at 888-773-2193 to schedule an appointment at your nearest USA Vascular Centers location.
We work with most insurance providers, and our outpatient centers are certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), reflecting our outstanding commitment to patient care. This accreditation also certifies us to provide services for patients with Medicare and Medicaid.
If you receive a PAD diagnosis, your USA Vascular Centers care team will put together a personalized treatment plan to address the lower leg pain keeping you from your favorite activities. We look forward to helping you feel relief from peripheral artery disease leg pain.
- Gleeson, Jane Racey. “Leg Pain and Pad: Know the Symptoms and Risk Factors.” Health & Wellness Topics, Health Tips & Disease Prevention, June 5, 2017. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/leg-pain-and-pad-know-symptoms-and-risk-factors.