What is Claudication?
Claudication is a deep aching pain that is felt in the calf, foot, thigh or buttocks during exercise like walking. The pain typically comes and goes with activity and rest. Claudication is a symptom of peripheral artery disease, a restriction of blood flow in the arteries.
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Signs and Symptoms of Claudication
Claudication is a symptom of narrowing or blocked arteries. As blood vessels narrow, claudication symptoms may include:
- Foot, leg, calf, hips or buttock pain when walking or climbing stairs which stops during rest
- Pain when resting can happen as the condition progresses
- Coldness in the lower leg or foot
- Sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
- Shiny skin or a pale or bluish skin color
- Intermittent pain
If claudication is suspected, your physician will do a complete physical and discuss your medical and family history. We use advanced technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
Angiogram: A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel and dye is injected to make the blood vessel visible during an X-ray. This can show any blood clots or other blood vessel issues.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound device can measure blood pressure on various points of your arm or leg, which will help the physician determine if you have any blockages and how quickly blood flows through your arteries.
Causes of claudication can include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Risk factors that can contribute to claudication include:
Age: The risk of claudication increases after the age of 50.
Family history: If you have a family history of atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease, your risk is increased for claudication.
While some risk factors like age and heredity cannot be controlled, there are ways to help prevent claudication:
Don’t smoke: Peripheral artery disease, which causes claudication, is directly related to smoking.
Exercise: Exercise helps reduce the risk of claudication.
Control high blood pressure and cholesterol: If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, take medications as prescribed.
Maintain a healthy weight: Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your weight stable.
Manage your diabetes: If you have diabetes, keep blood sugar levels under tight control.
With proper treatment, including lifestyle changes and medication, claudication can be controlled.
Treatment and Recovery
Treatment for claudication is focused on managing risk factors and treating pain. Claudication treatment can include:
Watch what you eat, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and quit smoking.
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, be certain to take your prescribed medications as directed. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to treat leg pain, improve blood flow or to reduce the chance of blood clots.
Surgical treatments may be recommended to improve blood flow and can include:
- Angioplasty and stenting: A small balloon is inserted to widen narrowed or blocked blood vessels and improve blood flow. A vascular surgeon sometimes inserts a stent, a tiny metal mesh tube, to support artery walls and keep blood vessels wide open.
- Atherectomy: This procedure, similar to angioplasty, removes plaque that blocks arteries to improve blood flow. During this procedure, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into a vein or artery via a small incision in the arm, neck or groin. The catheter is carefully threaded into the blocked artery. The tip of the catheter removes the plaque and collects it. When the catheter is removed, the plaque comes with it.
- Bypass grafting: This surgery creates a bypass around narrowed arteries to improve blood flow, by grafting arteries or veins taken from other parts of the body.
ComplicationsPeripheral artery disease, which causes claudication, can lead to serious health problems, including:
Blood clots: Plaque buildup can lead to blood clots which, if dislodged, can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Critical limb ischemia: When peripheral artery disease interrupts the flow of blood to the legs, the lack of circulation can cause sores and infections
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