Your Leg and Arm Pain Could Indicate a More Severe Heart-Related Illness
If you experience pain in your legs or arms while exercising, your discomfort might not be the result of too many reps or muscle strain from trying to set a new personal record. Rather, your pain may be indicative of a condition affecting the blood vessels, known as claudication. Claudication, sometimes referred to as intermittent claudication, occurs when blood flow to the legs (or arms) is restricted. Most patients first notice the pain associated with claudication during routine exercise, but it can also be made apparent during periods of rest if left untreated.
Surprisingly, claudication isn’t technically a disease. It’s actually a symptom of a disease — peripheral artery disease. Although treatable, peripheral artery disease is a potentially serious condition that restricts the ability of your blood vessels to circulate blood. This limits the amount of blood flowing to your legs and arms, which creates complications for those hoping to maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle. In this article, we’ll detail everything you need to know about claudication, including its symptoms and causes. If you believe that the pain in your legs and arms can be attributed to claudication, consult a cardiologist in Tampa from Ascent Cardiology Group to discuss your treatment options.
The symptoms of claudication are mainly pain-related, so it’s essential that you pay attention to what your body is telling you and avoid excessive strain. When your body says enough is enough, take a break and allow yourself to recover. The most common symptom of claudication is pain during exercise, which can occur in your feet, calves, thighs, hips, buttocks, or, less commonly, arms. Claudication will lead to pain in whichever area of your body is experiencing narrowing arteries or arterial damage.
But what about people who don’t exercise or live a largely sedentary lifestyle? For these people, intermittent pain may still be felt during less-strenuous activities like shopping or gardening. The longer claudication goes untreated, the more apparent the pain will become. For instance, individuals may feel pain in their legs or back while sitting or lying down in the later stages of claudication. Discolored skin or ulcerations can also occur in those with severely restricted blood flow, leading to sores on the legs, feet, toes, arms, or fingers. If you notice that your toes or fingers have taken on a bluish hue or feel cold or clammy, you should consult a cardiologist in Tampa.
As we mentioned above, claudication is most often a symptom of peripheral artery disease, a disease that causes atherosclerosis in the arms or legs. Narrowed arteries cannot facilitate the flow of blood throughout the body and only get worse over time as fat, cholesterol, and other atherosclerotic plaques further clog the arteries. The body’s complex circulation system is like a series of highways designed to eliminate “traffic,” or congestive elements that restrict blood flow. Atherosclerosis is like a traffic jam. Too much atherosclerosis and the whole system starts to drag, resulting in less oxygenated blood in the places you need it most.
Atherosclerosis and, by extension, peripheral artery disease, are the main causes of claudication, but there are other potential causes, too. Spinal stenosis, peripheral neuropathy and, certain musculoskeletal conditions can also lead to claudication. There are many factors that can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis and, therefore, claudication, including:
- Age: 50+ (Smokers and Diabetics)
- Age: 70+
- Family History
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Obesity (BMI > 30)
If you are experiencing pain in your arms or legs, you may be suffering from a type of pain known as claudication. Consult a cardiologist in Tampa, FL, to learn more about diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime, you can take some simple steps to control your condition, such as:
- Eat Healthy (Reduce Saturated Fat)
- Quit Smoking
- Reduce Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels
- Regulate Your Body Weight
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