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Lower Leg Pain: Causes and Treatments

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Lower Leg Pain: Veins and Arteries

These are some of the more common sources of lower leg pain caused by problems in blood vessels:

Blood clot. A blood clot that develops in a vein deep in the body is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Most deep vein blood clots develop in the lower leg or thigh. They are more likely to happen if you are inactive for long periods, overweight, smoke, or take medication that increases risk for clots. If you suspect a blood clot, go to your doctor or emergency room right away. Pieces of blood clots can travel to the lungs and other organs. Medications, support stockings, and weight loss are types of treatment to prevent clots.

Varicose veins. Weak valves and vein walls can cause twisted dark blue or purple veins near the surface of the skin. Varicose veins may cause a dull ache, especially after standing. Support stockings can be helpful. Throughout the day, alternate between standing and sitting. If your varicose veins are very painful, see your doctor about other types of treatment.

Infection. A skin or soft tissue infection can be red, tender, swollen, and warm. Warm soaks can help. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics. If symptoms get worse or you develop a fever, call your doctor.

Lower extremity peripheral arterial disease. The lining of arteries in your legs may become damaged and hardened (atherosclerosis). Arteries narrow or become blocked, which decreases blood flow. This can cause lower leg pain or cramping when walking, climbing stairs, or other kinds of exercise (called claudication) because muscles aren't getting enough blood. Resting may help. If arteries become severely narrowed or blocked, pain may persist, even when you rest. Also, wounds may not heal well. If not treated, this disease can cause tissue to die. People at high risk for PAD include people with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and those who smoke.

Treatment includes lifestyle changes such as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Managing weight
  • Exercising, gradually increasing walking distance over time

Other treatment includes medications to control cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure, to help with walking distance, and to help prevent blood clots. Surgery may be needed to improve blood flow to the area.

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