Woman grabs the back of her leg in pain.
Diseases & Conditions

Is Your Leg Pain a Sign of Something Serious?

By on 09/27/2019

It’s not uncommon for you to have occasional pain in your legs. Temporary, occasional pain can be due to a strenuous workout or being on your feet for long periods of time. But if your leg pain persists, worsens or goes away only to come back again, you should see a doctor.

Leg pain can result from an injury to the bone, muscles, ligaments or tendons in your leg. Or it may be due to issues with your spine, blood clots or peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease, also referred to as PAD, is a condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your legs. This is caused by atherosclerosis, the build-up of a fatty substance in the arteries. The condition is serious but can often be controlled or reversed. That’s why it’s important to not ignore leg pain that doesn’t go away.

The American Heart Association estimates about 8 million people have PAD. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping in the hips, thighs or calves when walking or exercising that goes away with rest (pain occurs in the muscles, not in the joints).
  • Numbness, tingling and cold feet, especially in bed.
  • Wounds on the feet or toes that don’t heal or heal very slowly.
  • Redness or color changes of the skin, or skin that feels cool.
  • Leg pain that continues even while at rest (this is a sign of advanced PAD).

Some people have almost no symptoms or attribute pain to normal aging or diabetic neuropathy. That’s why PAD often goes undiagnosed, which can be dangerous. Untreated peripheral artery disease can lead to severe leg pain, serious tissue damage or even amputation. People with PAD are also at an increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

Once diagnosed, doctors will recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as improving diet, increasing physical activity and quitting smoking. If PAD persists, you may be prescribed medication. For severe peripheral artery disease, your doctor may also recommend endovascular treatments that are similar to those used to treat heart disease.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 3, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

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