As a medical doctor, I am often asked about general health issues. Subjects such as diet, heart disease, exercise and life style. In fact, these health issues are a particular interest of mine because healthy legs are a reflection of good health generally, so much so in fact that I would go as far as to say, that if you don’t have healthy legs you can’ t be truly healthy.
Let me explain why. In my experience, there are 3 main threats to leg health: these are peripheral arterial disease shortened to PAD, chronic venous disease, about which I spend most of my professional career treating and lastly peripheral neuropathy. Lets look at these in turn and let me explain how each is related to health in general.
-1) Peripheral arterial disease is commonly known as narrowing of the arteries and by doctors as atherosclerosis. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and lack of exercise. The important feature of this condition is that is affects all the arteries of the body and so in addition to restricting blood flow to the legs, it can affect the arteries to the brain, the heart and the kidneys raising the risks of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Initially the condition may only cause symptoms in the legs but it is important to recognise as it may provide an opportunity to not only improve leg health but also to prevent heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure. The symptoms of early peripheral arterial disease are pain in the calf muscles when walking after a short distance, which is worse on a slope and which goes away after 5 minutes or so. The clinical term for this is intermittent claudication. As a specialist vascular surgeon, I have many years experience of diagnosing peripheral artery disease and advising on how it can be halted and in many cases reversed. Legs with a healthy artery circulation are a reflection of good arteries in general.
-2) Chronic venous disease is a very common condition. Thousands of people in the United Kingdom are affected by the chronic leg ulcers and the NHS spends almost a billion pounds a year treating leg ulcers with dressings and bandages. Fortunately, they rarely develop quickly out of the blue. Severe varicose veins, aching legs and swelling as well as varicose eczema are warning signs that the leg vein circulation is not healthy and that the leg is at risk of ulceration. Chronic leg ulcers are painful and debilitating. In younger people, they can be odorous and offensive causing problems socially and they can cause time off work with infections and hospital appointments so risking employment. For the elderly they restrict mobility and independent life and in everyone with leg ulcers there is the risk of septicaemia. So chronic venous disease is a major risk to good health generally.
-3) Peripheral Neuropathy is a risk to leg health. This is mainly a problem which affects people with diabetes. Diabetes affects the nerves of the legs causing unpleasant symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning sensation and problems with balance. A major complication is pressure sores and ulcers on the feet. Furthermore, there is a double effect of diabetes on leg health; it affects the artery circulation as well as the nerves. These 3 conditions, peripheral arterial disease, chronic venous disease and peripheral neuropathy all affect the leg health and they have a major impact on health in general an adverse effect on mobility and on well-being. So in summary, good leg health is very important and a clinical assessment of the legs can detect important general medical health problems. It is my opinion that if you are healthy in general, almost without exception, your legs will be healthy and conversely, if your legs are unhealthy, it is very unlikely you will be healthy overall.
Now, if you’re worried about your leg health and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. Our advisors are very happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation. You can call and book an appointment direct without a referral from your GP on 01935 873951.