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What Is Claudication ?

Claudication is pain and/or cramping in the lower leg due to inadequate blood flow to the muscles. The pain usually causes the person to limp. The word "claudication" comes from the Latin "claudicare" meaning to limp. Claudication typically is felt while walking, and subsides with rest. It is commonly referred to as "intermittent" claudication because it comes and goes with exertion and rest. (In severe claudication, the pain is also felt at rest.)

What Other Tests Might Be Done ?

Your doctor may order a test to check the blood flow in your leg. This test is often performed in a hospital lab, although some doctors can do a limited version of this test in their office.

A common test for checking the blood flow in your legs is called a PVR (pulse volume recording) study. With this test, cuffs, like the ones used to measure blood pressure in your arm, are wrapped around your arm and your leg on the same side of your body. Four cuffs are wrapped around your leg--one at the upper thigh, one at the lower thigh, one at the upper calf and one at the ankle. The cuffs are inflated slightly while you are lying down. As blood pulses through the arteries, the blood vessels expand, causing changes in the amount of air within the cuff. A recording device shows these changes.

If surgery might help treat the symptoms of claudication, your doctor may recommend an arteriography. This is an x-ray taken after dye is injected into an artery. The dye study may show narrowing in an artery and provides a "map" for the doctor who will do the surgery.

How Are PAD And Claudication Related ?

Claudication occurs because not enough blood is flowing to a muscle you are actively using. PAD can cause the artery that normally supplies blood to the muscle to grow narrow so that less blood can flow through the artery. When you're resting, enough blood flows to the muscle to meet the needs of the muscle. However, when you walk, the working muscle needs more blood. The narrowed artery may not let enough blood through.

Who Is At Risk Of Getting PAD Or Claudication ?

Risk factors for claudication and PAD include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and older age. Claudication is also more likely in people who already have atherosclerosis in other arteries, such as the arteries in the heart or brain. People with claudication may have already had heart attacks or strokes.

People with leg pain might think it’s from aging, arthritis or a diabetes-related symptom. PAD can be dangerous if it’s not treated. If you notice pain in your legs while walking, ask your doctor about claudication and PAD.

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