Pain in the Legs (Claudication) Symptoms
- The severity of the peripheral artery disease, the location of the plaque, and the activity of the muscles determine the severity of symptoms and location of pain.
- Pain and cramping in the legs is the main symptom of claudication. The pain
can be sharp or dull, aching or throbbing, or burning.
- Calf pain is the most common location for leg cramps.
- If the blockage or plaque formation is farther up the leg, the pain from claudication may be felt in the thigh.
- If the blockage is in the aorta (the main artery from the heart to the legs) then symptoms may include pain in the buttocks or groin or erectile dysfunction.
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Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) definition and facts
- The term peripheral vascular disease is commonly used to refer to peripheral artery disease (PAD
or PAD), meaning narrowing or occlusion by atherosclerotic plaques of arteries outside of the heart and brain.
- Peripheral artery disease is a form of arterial insufficiency, meaning that blood circulation through the arteries (blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart) is decreased.
- Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include elevated blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, hypertension, inactivity, and overweight/obesity.
- A small percentage of people over the age of 50 are believed to suffer from peripheral artery disease.
- The symptoms of peripheral artery disease depend upon the location and extent of the blocked arteries. The most common symptom of peripheral artery disease is intermittent claudication, manifested by pain (usually in the calf) that occurs while walking and dissipates at rest.
- Doctors may use radiologic imaging techniques including Doppler ultrasound and angiography to aid in the diagnosis of peripheral artery disease.
- Peripheral artery disease can be treated by lifestyle alterations, medications, angioplasty and related treatments, or surgery. A combination of treatment methods may be used.
- Complications of peripheral artery disease include sores that do not heal, ulcers, gangrene, or infections in the extremities. In rare cases, amputation may be necessary.
- Having peripheral artery disease usually indicates the potential for arterial disease involving the coronary arteries within the brain.
- Other names that have been used to refer to peripheral vascular disease include:
- Atherosclerotic peripheral artery disease
- Hardening of the arteries
- Peripheral artery disease
- Poor circulation
- Vascular disease
What is peripheral vascular disease (PVD)?
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis.
Are atherosclerosis and peripheral vascular disease related?
Atherosclerosis is a gradual process whereby hard cholesterol substances (plaques) are deposited in the walls of the arteries. This buildup of cholesterol plaques causes hardening of the artery walls and narrowing of the inner channel (lumen) of the artery. When this happens in the peripheral circulation, peripheral vascular disease is the result. The atherosclerosis process begins early in life (as early as teens in some people). When atherosclerosis is mild and the arteries are not substantially narrowed, atherosclerosis causes no symptoms. Therefore, many adults typically are unaware that their arteries are gradually accumulating cholesterol plaques. But when atherosclerosis becomes advanced with aging, it can cause critical narrowing of the arteries resulting in tissue ischemia (lack of blood and oxygen).
Arteries that are narrowed by advanced atherosclerosis can cause diseases in different organs. For example, advanced atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (arteries that supply heart muscles) can lead to angina and heart attacks. Advanced atherosclerosis of the carotid and cerebral arteries (arteries that supply blood to the brain) can lead to strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Advanced atherosclerosis in the lower extremities can lead to pain while walking or exercising (claudication), deficient wound healing, and/or leg ulcers.
Atherosclerosis is often generalized, meaning it affects arteries throughout the body. Therefore, patients with heart attacks are also more likely to develop strokes and peripheral vascular disease, and vice versa.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2016