LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - If you have leg pain or cramping when you walk, don't assume it's a normal part of aging.
That is the most common symptom of a condition called PAD, or peripheral artery disease, which can threaten blood flow to the leg and lead to serious complications, even amputation.
But how do you know if it is just a leg cramp or lack of blood flow to the leg?
Dr. Scott Shurmur, a cardiologist and Texas Tech Physician, explains, "When it's a blood flow problem in the legs, there's a very specific certain symptom, and that is as you walk, the muscles begin to tire, there's a pressure like cramping pain, and it actually gets better when you stop walking."
Dr. Shurmur says smoking and diabetes are major risk factors for peripheral artery disease, but anyone who suffers leg pain or cramping that doesn't go away when you stop walking should see a doctor right away.
He says if it is PAD, early intervention could help prevent the loss of a limb before the disease gets too advanced. He explains, "When it progresses to its most severe form, there can be ulcers or lesions or sores on the feet that don't heal because they don't have the blood flow to nourish the healing."
Another problem that may come from PAD is a loss of hair on the lower legs. Dr. Shurmur says that can also happen as a result of a lack of blood flow, "Because hair is not nourished enough to grow and the skin gets smoother because there is no hair there."
Even though smoking is a major reason for PAD, Dr. Shurmur says it appears that the risk is greatly reduced as soon as a smoker quits.