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Johns Hopkins Health - Killer Legs

Fall 2008
Issue No. 2

Killer Legs

Date: September 24, 2008


Persistent pain could signal arterial disease

If you’ve been feeling persistent discomfort such as cramping, numbness, heaviness or weakness in your legs or buttocks, don’t shrug it off.

Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD (often called by the misnomer PVD), affects about 20 percent of people older than 70, but it also strikes much younger people who smoke or have diabetes. Even more alarming, many people are without symptoms, yet PAD can produce a sixfold increase in their risk for heart attack or stroke.

“So, essentially, they’re walking time bombs,” says Johns Hopkins vascular medicine specialist Elizabeth Ratchford, M.D.

The good news is that screening, diagnosis and medical treatment of PAD is getting better, including clinical trials that are focusing on noninvasive treatments.

Ratchford is the local principal investigator for CLEVER, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study that is looking even more closely at the benefits of a supervised exercise program for people with PAD.

“We believe a formal exercise program may be the best treatment for PAD,” she says.

Johns Hopkins is conducting a research study on peripheral arterial disease. If you have been experiencing warning signs, call 877-546-1872 to find out if you are eligible for a free screening. To learn more, visit