Many people mark the New Year with a resolution to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you suffer from severe leg cramps or pain, particularly when you walk, climb stairs or exercise, your resolution should be to see a physician. You may be suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), the most common disease of the arteries.

PAD is a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels that narrows the vessels and decreases the amount of blood that travels to your muscles. Working muscles require more blood flow. Cramping is the body’s way of warning you that your muscles aren’t getting the blood they require. The pain from this cramping typically goes away within about 10 minutes after resting.

Because PAD is most common in those over age 50, far too often people dismiss the symptoms as arthritis or a normal part of the aging process. In reality, PAD is a serious condition that can lead to stroke, gangrene or amputation.

Seeking treatment sooner rather than later can help prevent serious problems. If you have severe leg pain, slow healing foot wounds, or one leg or foot that is significantly colder than the other, it is important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. When caught in time, lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, losing weight, lowering cholesterol and increasing exercise can reverse the symptoms of PAD.

If you have symptoms of PAD, consult with your primary care physician. If your condition requires surgical treatment, the physicians of Premier Vascular Services are ready to help.