What is claudication?


Know the basics

What is claudication?

Claudication, also called poor circulation, is described as a throbbing, sharp pain in the legs after exercising. If it gets worsen, the pain may affect you even when you are at rest. Claudication is usually a symptom of peripheral artery disease, which causes the narrowing of arteries to the hands and legs, leading to lack of blood in these areas.

The calf muscle is most likely affected by claudication, but feet, thighs, and buttocks can also be painful. The pain usually occur during or after exercise and go away with rest.

How common is claudication?

Claudication is common in people over 70 years of age. Sometimes it can happen to middle age people in their 50s with obesity, diabetes or smoking.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of claudication?

Symptoms for claudication are pain in the calfs, feet, thighs, hips and buttocks. Depend on the level of exercise, the pain will be more severe or mild. Some other symptoms include:

  • Ulcers;
  • Feeling heat and itching under the skin;
  • Cold feet at night;
  • Hair loss;
  • Skin breakdown.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes claudication?

The main cause is peripheral arterial disease. The arteries to leg muscles have narrowed in people who have peripheral arterial disease, which causes the blood flow to the legs decrease. It is usually a result of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

High level of lipid (fat) in the blood can causes these fat to clogged up the arteries, stopping the blood supply.

Some other diseases that can cause claudication are spinal stenosis, peripheral neuropathy, musculoskeletal disease and venous thrombosis.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for claudication?

There are many risk factors for claudication, such as:

  • Smoking;
  • High cholesterol;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Obesity;
  • Over 70 years old;
  • Over 50 years old with diabetes and smoke tobacco;
  • Family history.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is claudication diagnosed?

The doctor makes the diagnosis by checking symptoms and doing a physical exam. The doctor can order tests of blood vessels (including Doppler ultrasound) to find out about blood flow. If the tests show decreased circulation, angiography will be done before surgery to determine how severe the disease is. Angiography involves putting a catheter (small tube) into the artery of the leg and injecting dye to get a picture of the vessel.

How is claudication treated?

The treatment’s goal is to relieve symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse. Most patients are recommended to change their lifestyle, including avoiding tobacco (the best treatment), losing weight, and changing the diet to control diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. If symptoms remain, the doctor may prescribe medicine to help blood circulate better. A daily low dose of aspirin may be needed. Proper foot care is important to prevent infection.

If the blood flow is very reduced, a minor procedure called angioplasty may be advised to open up the blocked artery. A balloon-tipped tube (catheter) is inserted into the narrowed vessel and inflated to widen the vessel. Also, a stent (small mesh tube) may be put into the vessel by angioplasty. Sometimes, a tube of special material is joined to the vessel above and below where it is narrowed. This lets blood bypass the narrowed vessel. People need surgery if they have ulcers that don’t heal, their foot is cold and blue, the limb has gangrene, or they have severe pain at rest.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage claudication?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with claudication:

  • Avoid injury to your feet and legs.
  • Control risk factors of atherosclerosis (diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking).
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise in moderation, control obesity, stop smoking, perform daily foot care, keep your blood pressure in check, and eat a low-fat diet.
  • Avoid sinus and cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine.
  • Miss follow-up doctor appointments, especially to check on ulcer healing.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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