Q:

Can severe leg cramps be a cause of heart problems?

A:

Quick Answer

Pain and cramping in the legs, particularly if these symptoms occur with activity, can be a sign of peripheral artery disease, according to MedlinePlus. These symptoms aren't a cause of heart problems, but they are signs of existing cardiovascular disease.

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Full Answer

PAD occurs when cholesterol builds up in the arteries, causing them to harden and narrow, explains MedicineNet. Blood flow and oxygen to the legs are reduced, which results in cramping and pain with activity. Cramping is most often felt in the calf, but depending on the location of the blockage and the severity of the arterial narrowing, the pain may be felt in the thigh or buttocks. As peripheral artery disease progresses, pain and cramping may also be felt at rest.

PAD occurs most frequently in adults over age 50, with men outnumbering women, according to MedlinePlus. Other risk factors include a history of high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and kidney disease requiring dialysis. Heart disease in general is another risk factor.

Treatment for PAD involves lifestyle changes, medications and, in severe cases, surgery, states MedlinePlus. Individuals with PAD are encouraged to stop smoking, lose weight, control cholesterol and balance activity with rest. Blood thinners, medications to dilate the arteries and pain relievers may help control the condition.

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