Claudication can be pain or a tired and weak feeling that occurs in your legs, usually during activity where you are moving your legs. The symptoms typically begin when you start to exercise and go away a short time after you rest.
Causes of Claudication
Claudication is caused by the arteries in your legs not receiving enough blood and oxygen. This happens because the arteries in your legs may be narrowed or blocked. This lack of oxygen is called ischemia. It is critical to recognize claudication, as it is a serious warning symptom of an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Symptoms of claudication
Some of the typical symptoms of claudication include:
- Discomfort or pain in your legs that happens when you walk and goes away when you rest (also called intermittent claudication)
- Tightness, heaviness, cramping, or weakness in one or both of your legs
Claudication is a symptom of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), which is caused by atherosclerosis.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
- Smoking, or a history of smoking
- High cholesterol levels in the blood
- High blood pressure
- Family history of heart or vascular disease
What to Expect at Your Medical Exam
Your vascular surgeon will try to determine if you are suffering from PAD as well as the best method of treatment.
- Your vascular surgeon will ask you questions about your:
- general health
- medical history
- Your vascular surgeon will conduct a physical examination. You will be asked about family and medical history. Your vascular surgeons will ask you to describe your symptoms; how often they occur, how often and their location.
- Your vascular surgeon will conduct pulse tests; tests to measure strength of the circulation in your leg arteries. This is done by feeling the pulses at various locations in your legs.
- By using a stethoscope to listen to the blood flowing through your leg arteries, your vascular surgeon can determine the strength of the flow. Because PAD can affect any artery in the body, your vascular surgeon will usually check arteries in other locations in your body besides your legs.
After your exam, if your vascular surgeon suspects PAD, diagnostic tests will be performed including:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure in your arms and legs
- Pulse volume recording, which measures the volume of blood at various points in your legs
- Duplex ultrasound
- Blood tests for cholesterol, high blood sugar or other markers for artery disease
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
- Computerized tomographic angiography (CTA)
Treatment for Claudication
Based on the results of your physical exam as well as your diagnostic testing, your vascular surgeon will treat your claudication. However, the goal is to also treat the underlying causes of your PAD.
Treatments for these conditions include lifestyle modifications such as:
- Smoking cessation
- Exercise and weight loss,
If necessary, endovascular intervention or surgery which may include angioplasty and stenting and bypass.