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How Serious Are Leg Pains and/or Poor Blood Circulation?

Pain in the leg is just the result of standing too long or exercising too hard, right? Maybe, but if the pain doesn’t go away, it could be a symptom of an underlying circulatory system disease that requires treatment.

At Heart Vascular & Leg Center in Bakersfield, California, our expert vein specialists can help you get to the bottom of your leg pain, especially if it’s related to poor blood circulation. Since many patients aren’t aware of how the circulatory system functions, we’ve put together this guide about the relationship between circulation, pain, and disease to bring you up to speed.

What do arteries and veins do?

While your heart does the hard work of pumping blood out to the rest of your body, your arteries and veins serve as the conduits through which the blood flows. Arteries deliver oxygenated blood to all your body’s tissues, while veins return deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the lungs to pick up more oxygen, and to the heart, which starts the process all over again. If there’s any problem with this vast network of tubules, arterial or venous disease results.

When is leg pain not just leg pain?

Not all leg pain is a pulled muscle or a sprained ligament; sometimes it’s caused by an underlying circulatory problem, either in the arterial or the venous section of the system. For each issue, there are a number of symptoms to watch for, so you’ll know when you need to make an appointment with your vein specialist.

Arterial issues

Perhaps the biggest problem on the artery side of things is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), which most commonly affects the lower extremities. It’s estimated to affect over eight million people in the US 40 years and older.

In people who have PAD, the arteries carrying blood to the body’s tissues become narrowed, which decreases blood flow to the extremities and robs them of much-needed oxygen. It’s most often caused by the same type of atherosclerosis that causes heart disease: a sticky plaque builds up on the arterial walls, preventing blood from flowing normally. You can, however, develop it from an injury that causes chronic inflammation in the blood vessels.

Many people with PAD don’t even know they have it, exhibiting mild or even no symptoms. However, some have lower leg pain when walking (claudication), which can be anywhere from mildly annoying to so debilitating you can’t walk.

Peripheral artery disease signs and symptoms also include:

Venous issues

Issues with the veins most often start with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition where the veins stop working properly, and blood flow stalls. About 40% of Americans have some degree of CVI.

Your veins have to fight against gravity to move blood back up to the heart. To do so, they employ two techniques: clenching the calf muscles and using a series of one-way valves to prevent backflow. Valves can become damaged, though, and when this happens, the blood backtracks and pools around the damaged valve. The result is not only sluggish blood flow but also visual manifestations such as spider veins and varicose veins, ropy, swollen bulges on the skin. Sometimes the veins can be more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one, but varicose veins can also be painful, “heavy,” or itchy, and they can lead to more serious vein problems, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

While spider and varicose veins affect your surface veins, deep vein thrombosis affects veins deep within the tissue, again usually in the legs. DVT results when a blood clot forms in the vein; if all or a piece of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. There it can cause a life-threatening condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).

Some people have no symptoms associated with DVT, but when symptoms occur, they may include:

Treatments for leg pain due to poor circulation

At Heart Vascular & Leg Center, we develop treatment plans based on the underlying cause of your leg pain. Your plan may include:

If your leg pain isn’t going away, and you have any symptoms of circulatory problems, schedule a consultation with Heart Vascular & Leg Center today. Call us at 661-230-9659, or book online.

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