Some seniors lament that getting older is the sole reason for a cornucopia of aches and pains. It’s a normal part of aging, they say. Nothing can be done. Well, don’t you believe it. These naysayers with defeatist attitudes are misinformed because today’s medical professionals can do wonders.
Don’t just “live with it.” Aches and pains should be addressed. Take painful cramping in the legs or hips while walking, or numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs, for example. These symptoms often are dismissed by seniors but could be the sign of peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the arms and legs have become narrowed or clogged, causing interference with the normal flow of blood.
There are other symptoms of PVD, including severe cases that may cause burning or aching pain in the foot or toes while resting or the development of a sore on the leg or foot that doesn’t heal.
If you have PVD, you are also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, the disease often goes undiagnosed because many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages or they mistakenly think the symptoms simply are caused by getting older. This is a common condition in people age 50 and older, particularly in those with risk factors for vascular disease such as smoking, diabetes, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, having a family history of heart of vascular disease and being overweight or sedentary.
Diagnosis of PVD is made through a painless ultrasound that measures the ratio of blood pressure in the feet and arms. The blood pressure in your arms and ankles is checked using a blood pressure cuff and a special ultrasound stethoscope called a Doppler. The pressure in your foot is compared with the pressure in your arm to determine how well your blood is flowing and whether further tests are needed.
If you are experiencing symptoms or have any of the risk factors noted above, speak with your health care provider.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.