Healthy Legs, Healthy Life
Legs are very important parts of the body that require regular check and maintenance. Watch out for leg pains and their skin colour. Each day you go out for that walk, a cramp-like pain in your legs holds you a while and relieves why you rest. Trips continue but on reaching home while on a bench, the pain comes back. There are many causes of legs pains but exercise-induced pain may be a sign of breaking heart and should not be ignored.
Leg pains may be a ‘wakeup’ call for an underlying cardiovascular disease. Recently, leg pain saved the life of a 57-year-old gentleman. He developed a leg pain which was attributed to earlier long-standing backache. The physiotherapist attached to him did all he could, but the leg pain kept on increasing which made him to consult his primary physician. After certain tests, it was found that the arteries that supplied the legs were almost totally occluded. He underwent a bypass surgery which restored blood supply to the leg. His life was saved; otherwise the leg would have been amputated.
Another young talented lady was not that lucky. She developed sudden leg pain on her way to school which was taken to be simple cramps. Hot massages were done until the leg developed blisters (water containing swelling on the skin), later changed colour to blue. She moved from one hospital to another without succor until the leg became dead and was amputated. The Yoruba adage that says ‘a chicken doesn’t die of leg diseases’ does not apply to human beings. Watch that your leg pain, it can save your life. Recognising the importance of leg pain is life saving. A certain organisation has put together a programme tagged ‘legs for life’ in order to regularly assess the vessels of the legs to promptly discover any cardiovascular disease.
Men and women worldwide die more of cardiovascular diseases more than cancers combined. A quick intervention and prevention is the key in cardiovascular diseases. What the two people above suffered is what is called claudication, which is a sign of peripheral arterial diseases, a common cardiovascular disease.
Claudication is pain in the leg due to inadequate blood flow to the muscles. The pain makes the person to limp (claudicare in Latin). The pain is usually felt while walking and subsides with rest, typical of what is experienced in angina chest pain. It's commonly referred to as intermittent because it comes and goes with exertion and rest. In severe cases it can occur at rest. Males are more affected than females. The risk of claudication increases with age.
Claudication comes and goes because the blood supply to the muscle is impaired. The muscle will ache when the compromised blood vessel cannot meet the demand for oxygen during the exercise, but the supply is sufficient at rest. As the vessels narrow further pain can now occur at rest.
It can also occur in the muscle of the arms where the arteries that supply them are diseased. Claudication is one of the classical symptoms of peripheral diseases but has to be differentiated from the muscle pull that occur during exercise.
Symptoms and signs of claudication
· Pain in your legs while exercising which can be in your feet, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks depending on where the damage to the artery is. The pain comes up at certain level of exercise each time and is relieved by rest. There is associated numbness, tingling or hotness of the feet.
·In severe cases, the skin gets discoloured and forms painful ulcers. It further goes gangrenous and that leads to amputation
Atherosclerosis makes arteries hard and narrow. Arteries get clogged with clumps of fat plaque that narrows the arteries and deprive the leg muscles of oxygen rich blood. It can also happen in the heart and the brain.
Risk factors are as for all the cardiovascular diseases which are smoking, poorly controlled diabetes and hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol (above 240mg/dl), old age and family history of peripheral diseases.
Test and diagnosis
With this problem you have to consult your physician who may among other examinations ask you to do the following test. The tests are not often invasive and are affordable. It includes checking the pulses in your feet and Doppler ultrasound of the leg to study the flow of blood in limbs. Rarely would you do a kind of dye test called angiography that analyses the lumen of the arteries similar to that of heart arteries.
Any block in the arteries can be treated once it is detected on time. The treatment modalities depend on the degree of obstruction.