Are Your Aching Legs Telling You Something?

When you are over 50, it’s easy to dismiss a pain in your leg as just another sign of aging. But that pain could be a warning of a serious blockage in the arteries called peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

“PVD is very common,” says Robert Solyomvari, MD, general surgeon. Although PVD can take years to build and block arteries, most people only begin to notice symptoms after age 50. This disease and its resulting aching legs affect about 20 percent of people who are over the age of 70.

The most common early symptom of PVD is pain in the calves and sometimes thighs and hips that comes with activity and disappears after resting. Patients may also experience numbness, tingling or coldness in the legs or sores that won’t heal.

Blockages in the arteries can occur throughout the body, explains Dr. Solyomvari. It can lead to stroke when it involves the neck arteries, heart attacks when it involves the coronary arteries, and leg symptoms when blockages affect lower extremity circulation.

Many people are aware and they react to symptoms suggesting a pending heart attack or stroke. But many people don’t take aching legs seriously. That could be dangerous.

When peripheral vascular disease symptoms are ignored and this disease is left untreated, the leg can develop ulcers and eventually require amputation. PVD results in about 100,000
amputations every year.

To help spark public awareness about peripheral arterial disease, Dr. Solyomvari will offer a Peripheral Vascular Disease Clinic for screening for men and women with leg pain twice a month on Thursdays in the Wound Center.

It helps, too, to know what puts you at risk for PVD. Cigarette smoking is, by far, the greatest risk factor; others are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and a family history of heart disease.

Seventy percent of patients can stabilize or feel better by controlling their risk factors and exercising, says Dr. Solyomvari. However, some PVD patients require further treatment such as a surgical bypass. In the bypass procedure, the surgeon grafts a vein or plastic tubing onto the artery to create a detour around the blockage.

To schedule an appointment with the Peripheral Vascular Disease Clinic, call Upson’s Wound Center at 706-647-8111 extension 1539.