What is claudication?

Claudication occurs when there is decreased blood flow, typically to the legs, that results in pain. Claudication can occur in the arms too but it is less common. The pain usually happens during exercise. As the condition worsens the pain may start to develop at rest as well. The pain commonly occurs during exercise because there is an increased oxygen demand in the body when one is performing physical activity. Although the demand for oxygen is higher, narrowing/blockage of the arteries prevents adequate oxygen from reaching the muscles, resulting in claudication. 
Claudication is most often considered a symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD). In people with peripheral artery disease, the arteries that supply blood to the legs or arms become narrowed, resulting in decreased blood flow to these extremities. Due to the fact that claudication is associated with PAD/underlying systemic artery disease, these people may be at increased risk for having blockages in other arteries which could result in serious complications such as heart attack or stroke. 
Claudication is also sometimes referred to as intermittent claudication because the pain does not occur continuously; it occurs intermittently typically with exercise. The pain/cramping may cause one to limp because it will develop in the thigh, calf, and/or buttocks while walking. As the artery blockage gets worse, the distance one can walk before experiencing pain will get shorter and shorter. The pain usually stops once the person is at rest. 
Risk factors
  • High cholesterol 
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Being older than 70
  • Family history of PAD, atherosclerosis, and/or claudication
  • Being over age 50 and smoking and/or having diabetes
To diagnose claudication, your doctor will likely perform a complete medical history and physical exam. They will also take a close look at your signs and symptoms and when your pain occurs. They will want to rule out any other causes of the pain you are experiencing. 
Some tests that may be done to diagnose claudication include:
  • Checking pedal pulses: Pedal pulses are the pulses in your feet. If your doctor is unable to feel these pulses, this could indicate decreased blood flow to your lower extremities, which is indicative of claudication. 
  • Doppler ultrasound in order to examine blood flow in the affected extremities
  • Ankle-brachial index may be looked at to compare blood pressures in the ankles and arms. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/computerized tomography (CT) scan may be done to look for narrowing in the blood vessels due to plaque. 
  • Angiogram involves getting an X-ray image of blood vessels to look for blockages. 
Since claudication is most often caused by peripheral artery disease, treatment is aimed at preventing this progression of this disease and managing symptoms. 
Potential treatments for claudication include:
  • Angioplasty
  • Vascular surgery
  • Anticoagulant medications
  • Cholesterol lowering medications
  • Lifestyle modifications 
  • Antiplatelet medications
  • Approximately 8-12 million Americans have peripheral artery disease
  • About 5% of men and 2.5% of women over the age of 60 suffer from symptoms of intermittent claudication
  • Claudication is more common in men
  • About 1-2% of the U.S. population under the age of 60 suffer from intermittent claudication
about claudication

  • "Claudication." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2017.
  • "Claudication." Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2017.
  • “Intermittent claudication.” MedicineNet., 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 25. Oct. 2017. 
  • “Intermittent Claudication- Topic Overview.” WebMD, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Peripheral artery disease and intermittent claudication.” University of Maryland Medical Center. UMMC, 24 May. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication.” American Academy of Family Physicians., Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2017. 

NOTE: The information on this page and any information found on healtheo360 is not a substitution for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, CALL 911 immediately. See additional information about our Terms & Conditions.

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