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Health risk: This leg pain is a possible indication of heart attacks and strokes

Health risk: This leg pain is a possible indication of heart attacks and strokes



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Leg pain can be an indication of serious illnesses

If you have leg pain after a short while and you have to stop more often, this can indicate a peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The circulatory disorder, also known as "window disease", is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Leg pain can be an indication of shop window disease

Many people suspect that leg pain is usually a harmless cause. But sometimes they can also be a symptom of a serious illness. Such symptoms can be an indication of an early heart attack, for example. Leg pain can also be caused by the so-called shop window disease. Then the heart is also in danger.

Four to five million Germans affected

It starts with pain when walking - often in the calves: With “peripheral arterial occlusive disease” (PAD), the arteries in the pelvis and legs are narrowed.

As a result, there is no longer enough blood in the legs and pain, because the muscle cells in the calves do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients.

In Germany, four to five million people suffer from the vicious blood circulation disorder (arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries).

Because people are often forced to stop because of the pain, the PAD is also called "window disease".

High risk of heart attack and stroke

"With PAVK there is a high risk of heart attack and stroke", warns heart specialist Prof. Dr. med. Dietrich Andresen, CEO of the German Heart Foundation, in a message.

"If you notice the first signs of the shop window disease, you should see a doctor as soon as possible."

The same applies to pain that is noticeable when lying down in the toe region, especially when getting up provides relief.

If the PAD, which is also known as the smoker's leg, is not recognized, vasoconstrictions in other regions of the body such as the carotid artery, brain, kidneys and heart may also remain untreated.

The consequences are, for example, infarctions when arteriosclerosis has advanced significantly. The condition of the vessels can be quickly determined with a simple examination.
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The symptoms increase if left untreated

If the shop window disease is not recognized, the blood circulation in the leg and pelvic arteries deteriorates further and the symptoms increase.

The PAVK is divided into four stages by doctors depending on their severity:

In stage I, the arteries are narrowed but do not cause any symptoms. In stage II, those affected feel the pain described above when walking. In stage III, the symptoms not only appear when you are under stress, but also at rest.

Stage IV then has serious consequences: "If the blood flow drops even further and the undersupplied tissue dies, a" gangrene "or an open ulcer develops," says Prof. h. c. Klaus Mathias, radiologist and specialist for vascular medicine (Dortmund).

"On the other hand, if the vascular disease is recognized in good time and treated accordingly, such a dramatic course can often be prevented."

Diagnosis and therapy

As the heart foundation writes, pAD can be diagnosed by a simple test: the doctor feels the pulse in the groin and on the foot and measures the blood pressure of the ankle and toe arteries.

If the pulse is weakened or even missing, or if the pressure is reduced, the diagnosis "pAD" is established. The extent of the vascular disease can then be determined using ultrasound.

Doctors generally recommend a lifestyle change for therapy: among other things, patients should give up smoking, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, ideally 30-40 minutes a day.

"In severe cases, however, it is necessary to restore the blood flow through a small intervention," explains Prof. Sigrid Nikol, chief physician of the Department of Clinical and Interventional Angiology at the Asklepios Klinik St. Georg in Hamburg.

"With different catheter techniques, normal blood flow can be restored."

The catheter, a small tube, is pushed through the blood vessels to the narrow point and the vessel is expanded from the inside. In some cases, a stent is used. As a rule, the interventions are not very painful and have few complications.
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Risk factors diabetes and high blood pressure

Cardiac patients should pay particular attention to the first signs of shop window disease, since pAD has the same cause as coronary heart disease (CHD):

Deposits form in the blood vessels, which constrict the vessels over the years - "calcify" the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

Although these deposits form in every person in the course of life, the extent, in addition to genetic factors, determines above all the lifestyle and various previous illnesses.

Among other things, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus (diabetes) and fat metabolism disorders increase the risk of atherosclerosis.

Because the coronary arteries or arteries in the brain can also narrow, people with arteriosclerosis have a greatly increased risk of infarction.

"Patients with PAD should always pay attention to whether there are signs of coronary heart disease or heart weakness," explains vascular specialist Nikol.

Conversely, patients with such heart conditions should be examined for the presence of PAD. (ad)

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