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What is Claudication?

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

Claudication is defined as leg pain and cramping in the lower extremities that occurs with walking and/or exercise.  The word “claudication” comes from the Latin word “claudicare” meaning to limp. 


Pain from claudication can be sharp or dull, aching or throbbing, or burning.  It occurs most often with basic walking and is relieved with rest.  This can be indicative of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and is frequently referred to as “intermittent” claudication as the pain comes and goes with exertion and rest.



Most Common Cause of Claudication

The most common cause of claudication is PAD, which leads to narrowed or blocked arteries in the lower extremities.  The narrowed or blocked arteries are due to atherosclerosis, or buildup of plaque, within the arteries.  This reduces the amount of blood flow – and therefore oxygen supply – to muscles in the buttocks, hips, thighs, calves, and feet.


Calf pain is the most common location for PAD-associated claudication.  However, depending on the location and severity of atherosclerotic plaque, symptoms can be felt anywhere along the lower extremities.


Claudication Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing PAD and subsequent claudication include:

  • Tobacco use

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Age greater than 60

Though intermittent claudication is not considered a medical or surgical emergency, it is important to be diagnosed appropriately before symptoms become lifestyle limiting.  Diagnosing PAD and claudication begins with a thorough history and physical exam, something our vascular doctors at The Cardiovascular Care Group do as our regular initial consultation. 


Adjunctive non-invasive testing can be performed in our office, which may include ultrasound Doppler and ABI/PVRs with segmental blood pressure measurements.  More advanced imaging such as a CT scan or MRI may be necessary depending on the severity of symptoms and physical exam findings. All of which our practice is fully capable of performing.


Leg pain can be due to many different reasons.  Therefore, undergoing an appropriate vascular evaluation is essential to ensure the most accurate diagnosis and subsequent management.

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