• Leg and Kidney Problems

    Cardiovascular disease is more than a disease of the heart. It can affect any part of your body that relies on nutrient-rich and oxygenated blood to function. That includes your legs, arms, feet, and kidneys. When the problem is in the blood vessels that carry blood to any part of the body other than the heart, it is called peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Learn more about types of PVD by clicking on the following links:

    If you have blockages in the arteries to the legs, feet, and kidneys, you are at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.
    Ask your doctor if you are at risk.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Peripheral Artery Disease and
    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About RAS

    Legs and Kidneys Need Oxygen and Nutrients from the Blood

    When the cardiovascular system works the way it should, oxygen-rich blood from the lungs is pumped by the heart through one type of blood vessels, the arteries, to nourish the body’s organs and tissues (including the legs and kidneys) with oxygen and nutrients. The blood then returns to the heart via another type of blood vessel, the veins. From the heart, the blood travels to the lungs for a refill of oxygen before leaving again through the arteries.

    If the flow of blood in either direction (from or to the heart) is blocked or slowed, it can cause problems.

    Blood Flow from the Heart

    Atherosclerosis is a disease where arteries become blocked with plaque that contains cholesterol and fatty deposits. These blockages prevent the arteries from delivering oxygen and nutrients to the organs in the body and can increase your risk of serious health problems such as -

    Blood Flow to the Heart

    Sometimes PVD affects the veins, too, making it more difficult for the blood to make its return trip to the heart for more oxygen and nutrients. With the help of the muscles and valves in the veins, healthy veins defy gravity by pushing the blood in our feet and legs to the heart. When we sit or rest, valves within the veins close to prevent the blood from flowing back into the legs and feet.

    •  If the veins and valves become weak or damaged, the valves might not close properly and blood accumulates where it doesn’t belong — in veins in the legs where it pools or clots. This problem is called Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) or Chronic Venous Disease (CVD). Varicose veins and spider veins are fairly common, non-life-threatening forms of CVI, but they can cause discomfort and interfere with your daily activities.
    • Blood clots can also cause problems in the veins and other parts of the vascular system. Blood clots can block veins and increase the pressure on the vein walls. If the walls stretch or become weak it can prevent the valve from closing properly. A blood clot can also cause problems by breaking free and flowing through the vein to other parts of the body.
    • When a blood clot makes its way into an artery in the lung it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE is usually caused by a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside the leg or the pelvis, a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Symptoms of PE include shortness of breath and coughing up blood. If you have symptoms of PE, call 911 immediately.

    Finding the Problem

    The most common diseases of the heart and vascular system are listed below:

    Heart and Vascular Disease

    Origin and Nature of Problem

    Body Part Affected


    coronary artery (blockage)


    coronary artery disease; heart attack

    carotid artery disease (blockage)


    carotid artery disease; stroke

    peripheral arteries (blockage)

    legs, arms, and feet

    peripheral artery disease (PAD)

    renal arteries (blockage)


    renal artery disease; high blood pressure; kidney failure

    blood clot from vein deep inside body (usually legs) breaks free and travels the bloodstream to an artery in the lung where it can block blood flow


    pulmonary embolism (PE)

    Blood clots form deep with the body (usually in the legs)


    deep vein thrombosis, which can cause pulmonary embolism


    Damaged veins and vein valves in veins closer to the  skin allow blood to backflow and pool in the legs


    chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), varicose veins, and spider veins

    Leg Blockages (PAD)

    Left untreated, peripheral artery disease (PAD) can make it difficult to carry out and enjoy your daily activities. But even more important — it can put your life at risk. According to the American Heart Association, people with PAD are four to five times more at risk for heart attacks and strokes. That’s because atherosclerosis affects the entire cardiovascular system. If you have plaque in the arteries in one part of your body - for example, your legs - you probably have it in other organs such as your heart (see diagram below). So it’s very important to identify the symptoms and treat cardiovascular disease in all its forms as early as possible. This may to reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke, limb amputation, or kidney failure down the road. Click here to learn more about peripheral artery disease (PAD).

    Leg Vein Problems (Venous Disease)

    Your legs are not supposed to hurt. If you have pain, swelling, or wounds in your legs or feet it is important to see your doctor. Don’t assume that it’s because you’re getting older. It’s true that as we age we are more at risk for developing problems in our legs, but it’s important to know what’s wrong and what you can do about it. One possible explanation is venous disease, especially if you have a history or spider veins or varicose veins. If you have unexplained pain, heaviness, or swelling in a leg or you can see veins in your legs because they are purple, twisted, and raised above the skin, talk with your doctor about venous disease. Click here to learn more about leg vein problems and how your doctor can help.

    Kidney Blockages (RAS)

    Just like other organs in the body, our kidneys need oxygen and nutrients to function. If the arteries that carry the oxygen-rich blood to the kidneys are blocked or narrowed by the build-up of plaque, or atherosclerosis, it can damage the kidneys. The kidneys are also responsible for filtering our blood. So they need an uninterrupted flow of blood to be able to filter out everything that needs to be removed. Because the kidneys help to control blood pressure, high blood pressure that does not respond to medication is one symptom of RAS or blocked or narrowed arteries leading to the kidneys. Besides putting your kidneys in danger, the high blood pressure that results from RAS can affect other arteries and put you at greater risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Click here to learn more about RAS.

  • More about PAD, RAS, and Venous Disease

    Type Size

    Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)

    A simple test, called the ankle-brachial index, or ABI, can quickly and painlessly determine if you likely have peripheral artery disease (PAD), which means blockages in the blood vessels leading to your legs. PAD, also referred to as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), can cause discomfort or weakness while walking and, if severe and left untreated, can potentially lead to amputation of the leg or foot.

    Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

    What’s Happening in Your Body PAD is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits, or plaque (called atherosclerosis), inside the arteries that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. When arteries become partly or completely blocked with plaque, the flow of blood is restricted, which interferes with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that your muscles and organs need to work properly. When you walk, climb stairs, play tennis, or are physically active in any way, your muscles and organs require even more blood that usual. When the muscle can’t get more blood due to the blockage of the arteries from PAD, the muscles are in pain.

    Causes of Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    The renal arteries supply blood to the kidneys. They branch from the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the lower body. Before reaching the kidneys, each renal (kidney) artery divides into four or five branches. Renal (kidney) artery disease (RAS) occurs when blood flow to one or both kidneys is restricted or blocked as a result of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries. When blood flow to the kidneys is restricted or blocked by atherosclerosis in the renal arteries, the kidneys are deprived of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function.

    Diagnosing Leg Vein Problems

    If you have pain and discomfort in your legs or you are risk for leg vein problems, track your symptoms on the SecondsCount Leg Vein Symptoms Log and share it with your doctor.

    Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    To diagnose peripheral artery disease - blockages in the arteries leading to your legs, feet, or arms - your physician may ask you about your medical history, if you have a history of heart disease in your family, and questions that can determine if your lifestyle increases your risk. He or she will also ask about your symptoms, such as pain or heaviness in your legs muscles during exercise. If your doctor suspects you have PAD, he or she will recommend tests to verify the diagnosis.

    Diagnosing Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    Early diagnosis and treatment of renal artery disease can help prevent high blood pressure and lower your risk for kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. To diagnose renal artery disease your physician may ask you about your personal and family medical history, as well as questions to see if your lifestyle may put you at risk. After performing a physical exam, your physician will recommend tests if he or she thinks you may have renal artery disease.

    Five Things You Need to Know About Peripheral Artery Disease

    More than 10 million Americans suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), and yet many people don't know what it is or how to treat it. If left untreated, the disease that causes PAD (atherosclerosis) can cause serious and even life-threatening complications, including gangrene, heart attack, and stroke.

    Help for Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: Knowing Your Options

    With very little attention from us, healthy veins work hard to keep us alive and kicking. They perform one of many critical functions of the cardiovascular system, specifically, returning blood to the heart to get the oxygen and nutrients the body needs. For many of us, it’s only when something goes wrong with our veins—especially if it causes us pain or embarrassment—that we appreciate how important veins are to our health.

    Is My Leg Vein Problem Cosmetic or Medical?

    Leg vein problems, such as varicose veins and spider veins, may not put your life in danger, but they can be very painful. You might also feel embarrassed by the way they look. Have you given up swimming and wearing shorts because you think people are staring the twisted, bulging, purple veins on your calf?

    Leg Vein Problems (Venous Disease)

    Vein problems can hurt and interfere with your daily activities for the rest of your life if you don’t do something about it. According to the Vascular Disease Foundation, “by the age of 50, nearly 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men have significant leg vein problems.”

    Leg Vein Treatments

    Without treatment, a minor problem with your veins can get much worse. So it’s important to see a doctor, whether to treat a potentially life-threatening condition, such as preventing blood clots in the deep veins, or to find relief from pain and sores.

    Lifestyle Changes for Peripheral Artery Disease

    Treat Your Body Well—It Has to Last a Lifetime! You are the most important player in the treatment of PAD. Even if you don’t have PAD, lifestyle changes can also significantly reduce your risk of developing PAD in the first place and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke at the same time.

    Lifestyle Changes  for Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    Your doctor will recommend that you modify your lifestyle – stop smoking if you haven’t already, begin eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to achieve your ideal body weight. Follow the links in this section for tools and more information on living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

    Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

    Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease that not only affects not only how well you live but also how long you may live. You may find that that you can’t walk as far or for as long as you used to—and that’s frustrating—but if you have PAD, you are also at greater risk for having a heart attack and stroke.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Leg Vein Problems

    The following questions may help you talk to your physician about your individual risk for venous disease. Print or write down these questions for your next appointment so you can take notes and remember the key points you want to discuss.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Peripheral Artery Disease

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your individual risk of having peripheral artery disease (PAD). Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor about RAS

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your individual risk for renal (kidney) artery disease (RAS). Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    Resources for Leg Vein Problems

    If you are interested in learning more about venous disease or you are looking for support, local screening information, or qualified medical professionals in your area, you may be interested in the following websites...

    Resources for Peripheral Artery Disease

    For more information on peripheral artery disease (PAD), SecondsCount.org has a list of related websites you should be aware of.

    Resources on and Support for those with Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    Here is a list of some important resources on the subject of Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease.

    SecondsCount Healthy Vein Checklist

    Vein problems are not the end of the world. Especially if you are willing to try new things, change some old habits, and take responsibility for your own health.

    SecondsCount PAD Check: Are You at Risk?

    Follow this simple, easy-to-read flowchart to see if you are at risk for Peripheral Artery Disease.

    SecondsCount Take Control Planner

    Use this planner to set manageable goals in one or two areas of your life. Remember, a goal should be specific and realistic. If you don’t achieve one of your goals, break it into smaller steps and try again.

    SecondsCount Treat Your Feet Checklist

    If you have diabetes, PAD, or both, you can prevent serious foot problems, including the loss of a toe, foot, or leg to amputation by taking care of your feet every day.

    SecondsCount Venous Disease Risk Assessment Checklist

    Are you at risk for problems with your veins? Check off the items that apply and share your answers with your doctor. Together you can find ways to reduce your risk of developing problems in the future.

    SecondsCount Walking Guide for PAD

    A structured walking program often works better than medicine or surgery to help people with PAD walk longer and farther without pain.

    Symptoms of Leg Vein Problems

    You can have problems in your veins without any symptoms. In fact, about 50 percent of the people with one of the most serious vein problems, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), do not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, don’t ignore them. It’s your body’s way of telling you to get help.

    Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

    Like most of us, you’ve probably had your share of aches and pains. Sometimes you can attribute them to a specific event—helping a friend move a heavy piece of furniture or pulling a muscle after bowling for the first time in years. Other times the pain comes on more gradually. You might think it’s just another sign that you’re getting older, As you age, especially if you have other health concerns, such as diabetes, it’s important to tell your doctor about all your aches and pains, especially if you have cramping, fatigue, heaviness, tightness, or weakness in the legs while walking, running, climbing stairs or engaging in other activities. These could be symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD)—a buildup of plaque and blockages in the arteries that restrict the flow of blood to your legs.

    Symptoms of Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    You can have renal (kidney) artery disease (RAS) without having any symptoms, so it is very important to be aware of the risk factors that can cause RAS. Based on your medical history, physical exam, blood test, and other factors you and your doctor may decide that you should be tested for RAS.

    Treatment of Renal (Kidney) Artery Disease

    Without treatment, renal (kidney) artery disease (RAS) may cause high blood pressure and eventually lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, they can no longer filter the blood and rid the body of waste products. And, to survive you will need a kidney transplant or regular medical visits for kidney dialysis—so a machine can filter your blood for you.

    Types of Leg Vein Problems

    When was the last time you thought about your veins? Maybe when you gave blood? And yet they are an integral part of the vascular system that keeps us alive—day in and day out—whether we think about it or not. Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart and into the lungs to be replenished with the oxygen and nutrients the body needs to function and stay healthy.

    What Causes Problems in Leg Veins?

    Blood vessels have the important job of moving blood throughout the body. Blood vessels called arteries carry blood from the heart to all other parts of the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs and tissues. Veins, another type of blood vessel, return the blood to the heart and lungs to restock its supply of oxygen.