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Leg Pain and Peripheral Artery Disease: What's the Connection?

Leg Pain and Peripheral Artery Disease: What's the Connection?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) means that your peripheral arteries 一 arteries outside of your chest or abdomen 一 have become narrowed or blocked, often as a result of atherosclerosis. Although your peripheral arteries include the arteries in your hands, arms, and legs, the majority of PAD cases affect your legs. 

Our team of board-certified, fellowship-trained vascular surgeons at Vascular Specialists treat PAD as well as the conditions that exacerbate arteriosclerosis and PAD. How do you know if your leg pain is related to PAD? We explain here.

The connection between leg pain and PAD

Changes in oxygen delivery in your legs is the main source of leg pain when you have PAD. The condition can cause blocked arteries, which means not enough oxygenated blood is being delivered throughout your system. This may cause claudication 一 muscle pain and cramps caused by a lack of oxygen. 

You may notice that your pain is worse when you walk and lessens when you rest. Leg pain can develop anywhere in your leg, but it’s most common in your calf muscles. You may experience mild to severe muscle cramps that make it difficult to walk.

PAD doesn’t just cause muscle cramps. Because of narrowed arteries, PAD can also contribute to:

If PAD goes untreated, your symptoms may get worse, and you may start to notice that the pain is present even when resting. Leg pain from PAD can even interrupt your sleep. 

What to do if you have leg pain from PAD

The first step is to manage all underlying conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — to keep PAD from getting worse. All of these conditions can increase your risk of arterial blockages and make PAD worse.

Eating healthy, exercising regularly, managing blood sugar, and taking any prescribed medication is essential. If your PAD is severe, you may also require procedures 一 either minimally invasive or surgical 一 to open up your arteries. At Vascular Specialists, we may recommend:

Minimally invasive balloon angioplasty with stent 

During a balloon angioplasty, we insert a medical-grade balloon through a catheter (a thin tube) into your affected artery under the guidance of a real-time X-ray called fluoroscopy. Once in place, we inflate the balloon to open up your artery. In some cases, we may also place a mesh stent. While we remove the balloon, the mesh stent stays in place to keep your arterial walls open.

Minimally invasive atherectomy

During atherectomy, we use special tools to remove plaque. Atherectomies can employ blades, lasers, or specialty spinning tools to chip away plaque and open up your artery.

Surgical bypass

If minimally invasive options aren’t right for you, we may recommend peripheral artery bypass. During this surgery, our team reroutes blood flow in an artery in your leg so that it bypasses the clogged artery. 

How do PAD treatments alleviate leg pain?

During your appointment, we review your symptoms, your medical history, and any diagnostic imaging tests to confirm that PAD is the source of your leg pain. In some cases, we may find that varicose veins are causing your pain.

Regardless of the cause, the goal of PAD treatment is to open up any blocked arteries so oxygenated blood can flow freely. Your muscle cramps and claudication should continue to improve as blood flow is restored and your legs receive the right amount of oxygen.

Don’t suffer in silence with leg pain! Call Vascular Specialists today and find out if PAD is contributing to your leg pain, or request an appointment online.

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