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Summer Is Not Always an Easy Walk in the Park

Summer months are a great time to get out for a walk in the park.

For some people, it can come easier than others. For some, even just a few minutes of walking can cause pain or fatigue. This could be a sign of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
PAD, a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, is one of the leading causes of amputation. Patients with a history of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are most at risk for PAD. 
The southeastern area of the United States has the highest amputation rates in the country, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Many of these surgeries can be prevented with proper education and alternative treatment plans, which result in patients having better health, more active lifestyles, and longer life spans. 
About 8.5 million people in the United States have PAD, however general population awareness is estimated at only 25 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Risk factors include older age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and plaque buildup in arteries, stemming from fat, cholesterol or calcium that obstruct blood flow. People with PAD are also at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, since the same factors that cause blockages in the limbs can cause blockages in other parts of the body.
So what do folks need to look for in regards to PAD warning signs? Remember F.L.O.W.
  • Feeling of pain in the legs
  • Loss of sensation
  • Open sores that won’t heal
  • Weakness when walking
If any of those symptoms appear, it is time to talk to a doctor and get evaluated. The best way to evaluate and diagnose PAD is with ultrasound examination. During an ultrasound, high frequency sound waves are bounced off tissues in the body and then converted into an image on a computer screen. Vascular technicians evaluate the blood flow through the vessels, looking for narrowed areas (blockages) in the arteries and blood clots in the veins.
While PAD can’t be cured, it can be managed with a variety of options, including minimally invasive procedures in an outpatient office setting. Often times, hospitals are not even needed.
Every person’s treatment can be different but the end result is often the same. You are able to get back to what you enjoy in life. Returning to an active life without pain within a matter of days. And there is no better news than that!

What Is Causing My Leg Pain?

Peripheral Artery Disease & Leg Pain

In patients who are normally active, symptoms of pain, weakness and swelling in the legs can be the first sign of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). It is not normal to have pain in your legs with activity. This suggests that a blockage has formed reducing the blood flow in your leg when you walk. Simply, if the muscles run out of blood, they will cramp and have pain. It is very important to see your primary care physician at this point because your body might be forming blockages in many places including the heart. There is simple treatment available with medications that can be prescribed if the diagnosis of PAD is made.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and sometimes the first symptoms of artery blockages is not chest pain, but leg pain with walking. Get evaluated.

Is Physical Activity Causing My Pain?

Leg pain one experiences with walking could be due to multiple causes.

While fatigue or generalized weakness are common reasons this may occur, there are a number of other potential etiologies.  Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, often manifests itself as pain one experiences after walking.  The pain is caused by blockages in the arteries limiting blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to the tissues which thereby leads to cramping with exertion.  The cramping most commonly presents in the calf muscles of the legs, but can also be found in the buttocks or thighs.  Other common causes of pain in the legs while walking or at rest include venous insufficiency, lumbar spinal disease or even electrolyte imbalances.  It may be something you wish to investigate further with your provider as there are fairly simple tests used to determine the culprit.  Regardless, it is never wrong to keep walking and keep exercising!