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Warm weather and shorts season are well underway, and unless you’re a teenager, your legs may sport some of the telltale signs of aging; namely, varicose veins. Varicose veins can range from small spider veins to swollen, bulging and rope-like veins. Aside from their unattractive appearance, varicose veins can also cause discomfort and, in severe cases, health problems ranging from skin ulcers to blood clots.
When most of us think about heart health and warning signs of heart trouble, we usually focus on symptoms involving the chest, not the legs. However, chronic leg pain may signal peripheral artery disease, a condition that shares a common cause with heart disease: hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is the primary cause of peripheral artery disease, or PAD. As we age, fatty deposits of excess cholesterol and calcium, also known as plaque, build up in the arteries. Over time, these fatty deposits accumulate, narrowing the blood vessel. Blockages develop, or the arteries stiffen, making blood flow difficult. This can happen not only to the arteries clos=e to the heart, but also, in other locations of the body. When arteries in the leg become blocked, they cannot deliver sufficient blood and oxygen to the body’s extremities. This causes the legs to ache or feel numb. PAD increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA, also known as a “mini-stroke”). If left untreated, PAD can sometimes lead to severe infection or gangrene, the deterioration of leg tissue and possible amputation of a leg or foot.