Get a Leg Up on Vascular Limb Pain

January 03, 2013

Do you have pain in your legs when walking certain distances? Does it usually go away once you stop? If so, there’s a chance you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the limbs. Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to prevent and even reverse the symptoms of PAD.

“Many people don’t realize that their bodies have the power to reduce symptoms of PAD just by making simple lifestyle changes,” explains Ashish Gupta, M.D., vascular surgeon for Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital. “We also offer surgical procedures that can help, such as angiography and stenting.”

Understanding risks

Dr. Gupta explains that not all leg pain is a symptom of PAD. The disease causes pain in the leg or hip only when the limb is moving because blood flow has trouble keeping up with demand. It doesn’t cause chronic pain.

People who smoke are much more likely to develop PAD. And it tends to occur more often with age.

“If you are unsure whether you have PAD, get tested. Sometimes a pinched nerve or other problem could be the cause of your pain,” says Dr. Gupta. “If you do have the disease, ask your doctor about steps you can take to reduce the problem.”

Preventing and reducing symptoms

Some steps to prevent PAD and reduce symptoms include quitting smoking, eating a low-fat diet, losing weight and taking any prescribed cholesterol or blood pressure medications. Exercising is very important, too.

“It seems counterintuitive to exercise when the pain only occurs during movement, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to reduce PAD symptoms,” says Dr. Gupta. “Exercise allows the body to create natural new detours where blood can flow.”

To start, Dr. Gupta suggests walking a little beyond the point when you feel tightness in your legs. Then, push a little further each time you exercise.

“By working closely with your doctor, you can take a step-by-step approach to PAD treatment,” says Dr. Gupta. “We help you take control.”

Do you have pain in your legs? If you are concerned you may have PAD, please contact your primary care physician or call 1-800 WYAN-DOC (1-800-992-6362) to find a physician in your area.