Leg pain is often the first symptom of vascular disease, but each person’s experience varies. Your leg pain may range from mild to severe. You may feel the pain when you’re active or at rest.
As the pain comes and goes, it’s easy to ignore it and wait for it to go away. But ignoring leg pain is never a good idea.
If your leg pain is caused by vascular disease and you don’t get treatment, you’re on the road to developing poor circulation and serious complications that can lead to amputation.
At Heart Vascular & Leg Center in Bakersfield, CA, Vinod Kumar, MD, FACC, a board-certified cardiologist, and his team, offer comprehensive care for leg pain, and best of all, you get all the medical attention you need in one location. We have a team of multidisciplinary experts who specialize in diagnosing and treating vascular and cardiology conditions.
Here’s a rundown of the vascular conditions that cause leg pain, and the top five reasons you should never ignore leg symptoms.
Vascular diseases that cause leg pain
Peripheral artery disease and venous insufficiency are the primary vascular diseases responsible for leg pain. You will also end up with leg pain if you develop deep vein thrombosis.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD begins when cholesterol and other fats build up in the artery wall, a condition called atherosclerosis. Without treatment, the fats keep accumulating and the resulting plaque enlarges and hardens.
As the plaque restricts blood flow, your muscles, skin, bones, and other tissues in your lower leg don’t get the oxygen they need to function. That’s when you develop leg pain.
Venous insufficiency and varicose veins
Venous insufficiency develops when valves in a leg vein fail. These valves keep blood flowing up your leg, working against gravity as deoxygenated blood returns to your heart.
When a valve fails, it allows blood to go back down your leg. The refluxing blood accumulates in that area of the vein, resulting in engorged, twisted, varicose veins.
Though most people think of varicose veins as nothing more than a cosmetic problem, they’re actually the first sign of venous insufficiency, a vascular disease that leads to complications.
Varicose veins commonly cause leg pain as well as symptoms such as heavy-feeling legs, aching, cramps, leg swelling, and restless legs.
Superficial leg veins, known as spider veins occur when tiny veins congregate below the surface of the skin, causing red, blue or purple discolorations. Spider veins are harmless but can be removed for cosmetic reasons. If spider veins make you feel self-conscious, we offer several ways to get rid of them: sclerotherapy, laser treatment, or radiofrequency treatment.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis occurs when you have a blood clot in a vein that runs through the center of your leg. Venous insufficiency increases your risk for DVT, and DVT can contribute to venous insufficiency.
Five reasons you should never ignore leg pain
No matter how much you may hope the problem will go away on its own, it’s always dangerous to ignore leg pain.
These are the top five reasons you should see us if you develop leg pain:
1. If you have a DVT, it needs immediate medical care
If you have a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), it’s a blood clot which can break away, travel to your lungs, and block blood flow. This condition, called pulmonary embolism, is a life-threatening condition that needs emergency treatment.
2. Untreated PAD can lead to amputation
Studies show that 11% of patients with untreated PAD develop critical limb ischemia, and 22% of those with ischemia will need an amputation within one year.
Critical limb ischemia occurs when PAD causes severe blockage in the artery. The loss of oxygen-carrying blood leads to tissue death and gangrene.
3. Venous insufficiency and PAD cause leg ulcers
Venous insufficiency increases pressure in the vein. The high pressure forces fluids out of the vein and into the surrounding skin. Before long, these fluids break down the tissues and cause a venous ulcer.
PAD causes arterial ulcers. As your skin is deprived of oxygen, it deteriorates, and a deep ulcer develops.
Both types of leg ulcers pose a significant threat because they don’t heal on their own. Without intensive wound care at Heart Vascular & Leg Center, the ulcers keep enlarging. As a result, you develop skin and bone infections that put you at risk for amputation.
4. PAD is a sign of widespread cardiovascular disease
People with PAD also have a high risk of developing atherosclerosis in other arteries. There’s a good chance you have blockages in your coronary, carotid, or cerebral arteries.
5. PAD and venous insufficiency cause symptoms beyond leg pain
Vascular disease has a wide-reaching effect on the blood vessels and muscles in your legs.
Without treatment, you can develop:
- Skeletal muscle damage
- Reduced leg strength
- Loss of balance
- Slow walking speed
- Ischemic peripheral neuropathy
- Eczema-like skin rashes on your lower leg
Ongoing vascular disease results in a slow but steady decline in your overall functioning as well as loss of mobility.
If you need help with leg pain, call our Heart Vascular & Leg Center office in Bakersfield, California, or schedule an appointment online today.