When you walk more than a certain distance, do you get cramping, pain or heaviness in your calf that eases off with rest? The root cause may be more serious than mere muscle cramps. The same type of narrowing that can occur in the arteries feeding the heart can happen in the legs, where the decreased blood flow can cause pain. (Not always, though: roughly half of cases are ‘silent’ or without symptoms.)
This condition, called peripheral arterial disease or PAD, is more than a nuisance. While most cases aren’t severe enough to endanger the health of the leg and foot (which can necessitate amputation), PAD is like a flashing red light warning of a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke: about eight times that of someone without PAD.
That means taking steps to reduce that risk, as well as managing symptoms.
Thank-you to all of the interviewees who so generously shared their time and expertise: Pat Garry; Dr. Guy Derose, senior medical director of surgical services at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont.; Dr. Thomas Forbes, professor of surgery and chair of the department of vascular surgery at the University of Toronto, and division head of vascular surgery at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre; Pamela Houghton, a professor in the school of physiotherapy at Western University in London, Ont.; and Dr. Kathryn Myers, a professor in the department of medicine, and the division of internal medicine at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Most of all, thanks to Marge Lovell, founder of the London chapter of the Canadian Society of Vascular Nursing, who was a clinical trails nurse at London Health Sciences Centre when the article was originally published..