Claudication is pain in the limbs, usually the legs, that results from too little blood flow. Most people first notice claudication during exercise. As the condition worsens, the pain may become noticeable during walking or prolonged standing.
Claudication is a symptom of an underlying disease, and not a disease itself. The most common cause is peripheral arterial disease (PAD). In patients with PAD, the arteries in the legs become narrowed with plaque, preventing adequate blood flow from reaching the legs, feet and toes.
The risk factors for claudication are essentially the same risk factors for PAD, including:
- Total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL
- High blood pressure
- Age over 70 (50 if you smoke or have diabetes)
- Family history of atherosclerosis, claudication or PAD
- Obesity (BMI over 30)
- Chronic kidney disease
A common symptom of PAD is a type of leg pain called intermittent claudication, which occurs in 30-50% of patients with severe PAD. This specific type of pain is noticeable when walking or running, but fades after a few minutes during periods of rest. In addition to pain, the symptoms of claudication may include:
- Nonspecific discomfort
- Discolored skin or ulcers
In severe cases, ulcers can become infected, which can progress to gangrene and potentially require an amputation. The Temple Limb Salvage Center specializes in treating patients who are at risk for amputation. Using preventive medicine, medications, novel therapies and limb-sparing surgical techniques, they aim to preserve their patients' health while providing viable alternatives to amputation.