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Silent killer: Why listening to your legs could save your life

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Between 8 and 12 million people in the United States have peripheral vascular disease (PVD), according to the National Institutes of Health, but many are unaware that they are at risk. Even when they experience the classic symptom – leg pain or cramping – people often attribute it to aging and do not seek treatment.

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Kevin Dougherty, of Bethany Beach, Del., recognized that his constant leg pain was likely due to PVD

This potentially serious but treatable circulation problem occurs when the vessels that supply blood flow to the legs are narrowed due to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) inside the vessel walls. Left untreated, it carries significant risk for heart attack, stroke or even loss of a limb.

Unlike many, Kevin Dougherty, of Bethany Beach, Del., recognized that his constant leg pain was likely due to PVD. Kevin consulted with Edward Woo, MD, Director of Vascular Surgery at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Woo made a small puncture in the groin area and inserted stents—thin, wire mesh tubing—in Kevin’s right upper leg to keep the vessel open. The same-day procedure in March allowed Kevin to walk out of the hospital with less pain and cramping than when he walked in.

“A lot of people may be experiencing leg pain and not know the cause of it,” explains Dr. Woo. “If you have any concerns, it is important to talk to your doctor or make an appointment to see a vascular specialist. Without treatment, severe PVD can lead to worsening conditions, including dead tissue, gangrene and even possible amputation of a limb.”

Common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease
• Change in color or temperature of a limb
• Pain in the legs when walking or at rest
• Numbness or tingling sensation
• A new, long-lasting sore in the foot or leg
• Thickened, opaque toenails

Click here to learn more. Or call 855-546-1056 to schedule an appointment with a vascular specialist.

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Edward Woo, MD, Director of Vascular Surgery at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute.