Leg Pain Meant Larger Issue for Calloway Man
By Candice Freeland
MURRAY, KY - Most would agree that walking can offer some real health benefits to people. What may not immediately come to mind is that walking can indicate that some real problems are brewing inside a person's body.
This was the case for a Calloway County man who, in 2008, underwent triple bypass heart surgery about two months after he began complaining of pain in his calves.
The need for heart surgery came as a surprise to the family of the retired teacher, who asked that his name not be used. At nearly six-feet tall and 172 pounds, he has always enjoyed physical activity, maintained healthy eating habits, and did not have a family history of heart disease.
For two months prior to his surgery, the man says he experienced "charlie horses" in his calves, and his legs were often cold.
Eventually, the pain became enough of a distraction that he felt compelled to see a doctor.
This man experienced what's called claudication. Dr. Cliff Poppens is a doctor of internal medicine practicing in Cadiz. While he did not treat this patient, he says that claudication is a significant sign of potential heart issues.
"Heart issues are related to blockages in the leg. Usually claudication is caused by walking. It's usually a pain in the calves. It may be in the hips. It may be in the thighs. And the longer you walk the worse the pain gets."
Dr. Poppens says that some find they having trouble walking at all, as they may experience leg pain even while resting. He adds that "people who have decreased blood flow to their legs have about two-and-a half times increased incidence of having heart disease."
Would leg cramps or leg pain in general be something someone may ignore? Perhaps thinking their discomfort is due to being out of shape? Dr. Poppens says probably not in a situation like this.
"They might not let it go because of the pain. They may develop ulcers on their legs. They may get cold legs. They may lose the hair on their legs, and get thinning of the nails because of poor circulation...I would recommend not only getting the circulation in your legs checked, but also a cardiac evaluation."
That's what the retired teacher in this story did, and ended up having a triple-bypass.
While he was not happy about having heart surgery, and the recovery was a difficult one, he's says he's glad he did it, and it doesn't seem like it's been four years.
And he says that sometimes, he even goes for a walk.