Pay attention to lower-leg pain

Pay attention to lower-leg pain

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also called intermittent claudication, occurs when the great vessels that branch off from the abdominal aorta and make their way down to the toes become hardened. This condition is characterized by pain, usually in the calf, when walking. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling in the toes, coldness in the feet, and sores that won’t heal on the lower leg.

PVD is not a trivial disease; it is not something you can “live with.” If untreated, it will progress with further blockage, resulting in amputation of part, if not all, of the leg. Luckily, it is treatable-often with dramatic results.

Dr. Zhad Korduba, a New York City anesthesiologist, related his own story to Associated Press reporter Lauran Neergaard: Korduba began having leg cramps after playing tennis. “I kind of chucked it off to getting older and being out of shape,” he said. When it got so bad that he could hardly walk a block, he came to his senses and sought medical help. Korduba only lost a toe from gangrene-it could have been much worse.

Mainstream treatments often call for angioplasty (performed the same way as in the heart), an arterial prosthesis (a plastic tube to replace one of the larger arteries), or bypass surgery.

But it may be possible to avoid these radical approaches by doing something that may surprise you: walking. If it hurts to walk, how can more walking help? Well, it can be very effective in opening up new arteries to relieve the obstructed ones. It will hurt at first, and you may have to very gradually increase the distance you walk-eventually increasing your tolerance to the recommended three miles per day.

Another simple step you can take on your own is to quit smoking. Smoking is blamed for many things, often without proof, but in the case of PVD, it is a strong contributing factor.

One of the best alternative treatments for PVD is chelation therapy. You can learn more about this treatment from the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) by calling (800)532-3688.

Associated Press, Lauren Neergaard, 9/10/99