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Leg Pain

LEG PAIN COULD BE A SERIOUS SYMPTOM - DON'T IGNORE IT

Do you have leg pain? Dull aches in the calves? Cold feet? These could all be symptoms of a serious condition.

Each year, 11% of U.S. adults suffer with chronic, daily pain but only a fraction of them seek a doctor’s diagnosis for it. With leg pain, ignoring this early symptom could be a huge mistake.

DESCRIPTION OF LEG PAIN

Leg pain can occur in the foot, ankle, knee, behind the knee, thigh, down the back of the leg, or in any part of the leg.  The pain can range from a dull aching to an intense stabbing sensation.

Leg pain can occur in one or both legs. It can occur at night, while lying down, or while running or exercising, depending upon the cause.

Common Leg Pain symptoms include:

  • aching pain
  • numbness or tingling
  • burning pain
  • throbbing
  • weakness
  • cramps

COMMON CAUSES OF LEG PAIN

Pain in your legs can be caused by a wide variety of reasons.   Most often leg pain is caused by minor injuries or overuse and often eases with rest and non-use.  Leg pain can also be caused by temporary conditions like cramping.  In some cases, however, leg pain may be caused by a serious medical condition.

INJURIES

The most frequent cause of leg pain is from injury and over use.  This can range from minor sprains and strains to chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Leg pain injuries can include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Knee bursitis
  • osteoarthritis in hips and/or knees

CRAMPS

Muscle cramps can be a common cause of leg pain. Often called a “charley horse” or a muscle spasm, cramps occur most frequently in the calf. A cramp occurs when the calf muscle contracts when it is flexed. This contraction causes a sharp, sudden pain and can sometimes even be seen as a hard lump beneatht the skin.

Cramps can be caused by dehydration or muscle fatigue, but certain medications can also cause muscle cramps such as diuretics and statins.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS ARISING FROM LEG PAIN

Pain in the legs can be a red flag that you are developing a deeper problem. Let’s look at some common early warning signs of leg issues and when you should seek the advice of a vascular specialist.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), affects more than 18 million Americans but many are unaware that they have it. PAD occurs when there is plaque buildup in the walls of the peripheral arteries, which can restrict blood flow to your extremities and internal organs.

In PAD the veins and arteries that provide the body’s blood are becoming clogged and providing an insufficient blood supply. This can affect your body’s systems and organs, including the heart and brain.

For many people, pain and cramping in the legs is the first sign of PAD. You may notice pain while resting your feet on a footstool. You may feel leg cramps while sleeping. As you walk around, there might be a persistent dull ache in your legs.

The condition is often noticed in the legs because they provide a huge amount of pumping action for the blood supply in the body. When the legs’ circulation is restricted, a person may see or feel leg pain, tingling, numbness, coldness, color changes, and wounds.

People in the early stages of PVD often report that their legs feel heavy or weak. At night when they’re resting, their legs may experience a burning or aching sensation.

If your leg pain ceases when activity ends, it’s known as intermittent claudication. Don’t assume that because the pain eases periodically, it’s not serious. It could still be an indication that there is a blockage of blood flow.

Common symptoms of PAD include:

  • Pain, aches, and cramps in the legs
  • Pain when resting your legs and feet
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Non-healing sores on the legs and feet
  • Hair loss on the legs
  • Weak pulse in the legs and feet
  • Thin, brittle, or shiny skin
  • Impotence
  • Severely restricted mobility

If you have these symptoms, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with a doctor. Left untreated, these symptoms can progress to critical limb ischemia (CLI). Eventually you could develop gangrene, need an amputation, or even have a fatal heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) can be another culprit. It occurs when the blood in your legs is having trouble flowing back to your heart properly, because the valves are weakened.

In people with CVI, the blood tends to pool in certain areas of the body – especially the legs. This puts pressure on the veins. And this, in turn, creates discoloration, fatigue, swelling, and discomfort in the legs and feet.

CVI has many of the same symptoms as PAD, like pain, difficulty walking, and feelings  of heaviness in the legs. But CVI is especially common in women who have had multiple pregnancies and people middle-aged or older.

CVI is thought to affect up to 40% of the U.S. population, but many of those people have no idea they have it. They either have no symptoms yet, or ignore the symptoms.

PREVENTING LEG PAIN

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that you could develop PAD, CVI and other vascular conditions. These include:

  • Having diabetes
  • Being a smoker or tobacco user
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Having high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • A family history of vascular/arterial disease
  • Being over age 50

You can help prevent conditions that cause leg pain by doing the following:

  • Doing aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

For good health and peace of mind, schedule a consultation with a vascular specialist to rule out PAD, CVI, and other conditions. At Maryland Vascular Specialists, we can help you get to the bottom of your leg pain and see what’s causing it.

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