The moment a leg cramp begins, you brace yourself for that short-lived but excruciating bout of pain. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like if you were at risk for a cramp every time you walked, but that’s what patients with peripheral vascular disease face.The vein and vascular care specialists at Hamilton Vascular in Webster, Sugar Land, Round Rock, Katy, and San Antonio, Texas, have extensive experience determining when leg cramps are due to vascular disease and providing treatment that relieves your pain. Don’t wait to get the help you need. Call your nearest office or schedule an appointment online today.
Leg cramps occur when a muscle, usually your calf muscle, uncontrollably, and very forcefully contracts. Many patients find that dehydration and overexertion inevitably lead to leg cramps, but luckily for most, these cramps are infrequent.
Health conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, thyroid disease, and alcohol overuse are often the culprits in patients with frequent muscle cramps. However, leg cramps, especially cramps that return when you’re active, can signal an underlying vascular disease.
When a vascular disease is the source of your leg cramps, the underlying problem may be:
Chronic venous insufficiency develops when blood that normally flows up your leg toward your heart goes backward through a faulty valve and accumulates in the vein.
Atherosclerosis, or a buildup of cholesterol and fats on the artery wall, causes PAD. As the plaque enlarges, it narrows the artery, which in turn inhibits blood flow through the vein.
Your muscles depend on getting oxygen from your blood. When PAD limits the supply of blood and oxygen, your muscles can’t get enough oxygen to support increased activity.
When you’re at rest, you’ll feel fine. But shortly after you start to walk and your muscles demand more oxygen, you’ll develop muscle cramps.
If you have leg cramps only when you’re walking or active, you have a condition called intermittent claudication — one of the very earliest symptoms of PAD.
Leg cramps caused by PAD also cause leg pain when you’re active. As your PAD worsens, you may notice other problems such as wounds or ulcers on your lower leg that don’t heal, hyperpigmentation or discoloration around the ulcer, and loss of hair on your leg.
After reviewing your medical history and symptoms, your provider at Hamilton Vascular may order blood tests or perform an ultrasound or other types of advanced diagnostic imaging to look for blood vessel blockages.
They may also compare blood pressure at your ankle with the pressure at your arm, a simple procedure called the ankle-brachial index that detects PAD.
After determining the cause of your leg cramps, your doctor develops a customized treatment plan based on the severity of your PAD.
Lifestyle changes and medications are the first line of treatment, followed by interventional endovascular procedures to clear the blockage when necessary.
If you have recurring leg cramps when you walk, call Hamilton Vascular or schedule an appointment online.