Leg pain when exercising isn’t a normal part of aging; rather, it may indicate that you have a potentially serious circulation problem that needs medical attention. Your leg pain may indicate claudication, a symptom of peripheral arterial disease which is a potentially serious but treatable circulation problem.In peripheral arterial disease, the arteries that supply blood to your legs are clogged so that less blood can flow through them.
When you’re exercising, such as walking, your muscles need extra oxygen for fuel. But the narrowed arteries don’t let enough oxygen-carrying blood get to your muscles. The need for oxygen outweighs the supply, causing an aching pain.
The pain usually begins shortly after you start exercising, when oxygen need rises. The pain subsides when you stop exercising and oxygen need drops. If you’re doing more intense exercise, such as climbing stairs, dancing or walking fast, your pain may be more severe.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Although peripheral arterial disease can reduce quality of life, it often goes undiagnosed because many people consider the pain and unwelcome but inevitable consequence of aging. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The cardiologists at The Heart Institute of Venice can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, physical exam and tests. A diagnostic ultrasound can measure blood flow through the arteries to see if circulation is affected.
In many cases, peripheral arterial disease may be treated effectively with non-surgical procedures. These include EECP, cardiac rehab, medication and education on healthy lifestyle habits.
Some of the above information exerpted from “Claudication: When Circulation Problems Cause Leg Pain,” Mayo Clinical Staff, www.mayoclinic.com.