It may seem strange to think that the ache in your legs has anything to do with your heart, but there’s a good possibility it does. Several cardiovascular conditions can cause leg pain, particularly after exertion. At Maryland Cardiology Associates in Greenbelt, Maryland, our highly trained expert providers know what to look for when you come in and describe leg pain. Understanding the underlying cause of your leg pain could actually save your life!

In this post, we discuss the most common heart-related issues that can lead to leg pain.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is the most common cardiovascular cause of leg pain. Many people don’t experience any symptoms, including leg pain, and so have no idea they have PAD.

When you have PAD, the arteries in your arms and legs become narrower and stiffer, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. The reason PAD can cause leg pain—called claudication—is that when you use the muscles in your legs, they need more oxygen, but because your arteries are narrowed, your blood can’t deliver the oxygen quickly enough. If you have leg pain when you walk or otherwise exercise, you should schedule an appointment at Maryland Cardiology Associates. Although PAD doesn’t necessarily mean you have heart disease, it is a risk factor.

The same forces that cause the arteries in your extremities to narrow can affect those in your heart, which is what happens in coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

You’ve probably heard of someone having a blood clot. Venous thromboembolism, or VTE, occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein and describes two separate conditions: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). If you’ve had a recent hospital stay, you have a higher risk for VTE.

You also have a higher risk if you’ve had an injury such as a fractured bone or muscle damage, if you’ve had pneumonia or another condition that led to extended bed rest, if you’re obese, or if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods. VTE is a serious, life-threatening condition. If you have swelling in your foot, ankle, hands, or wrists, along with pain and soreness, warmth in the area, and redness or other discoloration, you should seek medical care, especially if you also have other risk factors.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)

Chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI, is similar to PAD, except it affects your veins rather than your arteries. Your veins aren’t just empty tubes. Instead, they’re filled with valves that open and close with the beating of your heart. If you didn’t have these valves, your blood would fall to your feet between each beat of your heart thanks to the force of gravity. The valves close and keep your blood moving in the right direction. Over time, your valves can become damaged and start to leak. Blood pools around them, and it’s more difficult for your blood to return to your heart as it should. If you have CVI, you may have aching legs, swelling in your ankles or legs, visible varicose veins, or itching on your feet and legs.

Get help

Your legs can be achy after exercise due to simple soreness, too, but most of us know the difference between that familiar pain and something else. Even if the ache doesn’t last long or happen every time, it’s a good idea to see a specialist if you’re having leg pain.

Don’t risk leaving a serious condition untreated. Schedule your appointment at Maryland Cardiology Associates. Call our office today or book a visit online anytime.

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