Leg Pain Treatment in Sugar Land
Some people mistakenly think that leg pain is a natural part of getting
older. You might be surprised to learn that leg pain that develops during
walking-and then goes away only with rest-can be caused by intermittent
claudication (IC), a potentially disabling yet treatable medical condition.
IC affects roughly 3 million people, most of them over age 55. Unfortunately,
an estimated 75 percent of all IC sufferers fail to seek medical help,
often because they don't realize that IC is a treatable medical condition.
IC is a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD-also known as
"hardening of the arteries," or atherosclerosis of the legs-has
been estimated to affect approximately 10 percent of people over age 55.
PAD occurs when arteries in the legs become clogged with fatty deposits.
It's not uncommon for people who have PAD to also have atherosclerosis
in other parts of the body-especially in the heart and brain. Atherosclerosis
is a serious health problem that can lead to heart attack or stroke if
The symptoms of IC may be felt in the:
Constructed footwear; or being overweight.
And the symptoms may be felt as:
IC symptoms may be felt in one or both legs and may occur during walking
or exercising. The pain is characterized by aching, cramping, tiredness,
or tightness of the affected muscle group. Once you stop walking or exercising,
the symptoms subside within minutes. If you're experiencing any of
these symptoms, see your podiatric physician. He or she can diagnose your
condition and suggest treatments that may help you walk farther without leg pain.
Controlling Your Risk
You can decrease the risk of developing leg pain due to intermittent claudication
(IC) if you take steps to control its risk factors. Risk factors are conditions
that increase your chances of developing IC.
Risk factors and other conditions that may complicate IC include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for IC. If you smoke,
your risk of developing peripheral arterial disease is two to seven times
greater than nonsmokers. Smoking increases the risk of IC by:
- Narrowing blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the legs.
- Reducing the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can increase leg pain.
- Irritating the lining of blood vessels, which can speed hardening of the
People with IC who continue to smoke also have a 10-fold greater risk for
Most podiatric physicians include an antismoking component as a routine
part of their encounters with all patients regardless of the diagnosis
and no matter what age.
High blood cholesterol is another risk factor for IC. Cholesterol is a
fat-like substance made by the liver, and it also enters the bloodstream
from the food you eat. When cholesterol builds up in the walls of the
arteries of the legs, blood flow is reduced, causing pain when you walk.
Studies suggest that lowering the amount of fat in the blood, including
cholesterol, may slow the progression of IC and possibly relieve symptoms.
Some steps you can take to control high blood cholesterol include eating
a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically
active. These lifestyle changes are the same as those recommended for
people with IC, giving you even more reason to undertake them. When diet
and exercise aren't enough, medication may be needed. Your doctor
can determine what treatment is best for you. For more on what you should
know about cholesterol, visit the National Cholesterol Education Program
on the Web.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for IC. It contributes to hardening
of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which is the basis of peripheral arterial
disease and IC. Although clinical studies have not yet been performed
to determine if lowering high blood pressure relieves IC symptoms, it's
wise to take steps to control your blood pressure. For more information
on lowering high blood pressure, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute Web site.
Doctors have found a link between IC and an inactive lifestyle, which means
that people with IC are most likely not getting enough exercise. A sedentary
lifestyle can result in muscle loss, lower endurance, and higher blood
pressure-all of which complicate IC.
To become more active, people with IC can begin by walking every day for
20 minutes, alternating walking with periods of rest. Your podiatric physician
can ensure your feet will be up to the task of starting a walking regimen.
The goal is to increase continuous walking to 30 to 45 minutes each day
for at least six months. Ask your doctor before you start or significantly
increase an exercise program.
Exercise yields many rewards. Research has shown that regular exercise
can help control IC risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity,
and diabetes-as well as almost double your pain- free walking distance.
Excess weight can make other IC risk factors much harder to control. It
raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol,and increases the risk of
developing diabetes. A commitment to losing weight and maintaining that
weight loss can be challenging, but by losing even 10 to 20 pounds, you
can help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Your doctor
can help you begin a healthy weight loss plan which may include both diet
If you suffer from diabetes (high blood sugar), your risk for developing
IC is two to three times greater. Steps to help control diabetes include
quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, being physically active,
and controlling sugar intake. By controlling diabetes, you may also be
able to delay or prevent its complications, such as IC. For more information
on controlling diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program Web site.
Patients, especially those with diabetes, should pay extra attention to
their foot and nail care and obtain regular foot examinations from their
podiatric physician. See your podiatrist at the first sign of any changes
in the foot.
Managing the Condition
Your podiatric physician will undertake a careful examination and diagnosis
of the condition. Foot care is of critical importance to patients with
IC, because seemingly minor injuries to the feet may result in infection,
nonhealing wounds, and other complications. Patients, especially those
with diabetes, will receive explicit instructions regarding foot and nail
care. Smokers need to stop- immediately. Exercise programs, particularly
walking, can help the condition, and safe, effective drug therapy may
be prescribed by your podiatric physician.