What does claudication feel like and what are the most common causes?

What does claudication feel like and what are the most common causes?    

When your arteries are not healthy, your overall quality of life can be affected. Having poor circulation or damaged blood vessels can make it harder to perform normal daily activities, such as walking. If you experience pain or discomfort whenever you walk or exercise, it may be a sign of a condition known as claudication. Here's what you should know about claudication before scheduling your consultation with the experts at the Vascular Institute of the Rockies.

What is Claudication?
Claudication is pain that occurs when you walk or exercise and is alleviated by rest.  It is common in cases of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which causes your arteries to become narrowed or blocked and reduces the blood flow to your legs. Over time, claudication can get worse; this can make it more difficult to walk even short distances if the disease is left untreated. Because individuals with claudication are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, seeking medical care quickly is important.

What Are the Symptoms?
If you experience claudication, there are specific symptoms that will present themselves, including:
•    Pain in your calves, hips, thighs, buttocks, and/or feet
•    Pain, aching, discomfort, or weakness in the same muscles every time you use them
•    Pain that goes away quickly after resting

The pain caused by claudication can present itself in different ways. While it may feel like muscle cramping to some people, it could feel like dull aching, numbness, or tingling in others. 

What Are the Causes?
Most people who experience claudication also have PAD. PAD happens when plaque builds up on the inside of your arteries, in a condition known as atherosclerosis. This plaque is made of fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances found in your blood. The cells in your body need oxygen carried through your bloodstream in order to perform properly. When you move, your muscles need more oxygen to function than if you were sitting down. If your blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, you may experience pain when you exercise (even if it's a light walk) because your muscles need more oxygen than your blood vessels can deliver. When you rest, the pain goes away because your blood vessels can keep up with the reduced amount of oxygen needed. Not exercising can make claudication worse, which is particularly challenging since the pain from the condition makes it more challenging to stay active. 

What Are the Risk Factors of Claudication?
Certain risk factors could make you more likely to develop PAD and claudication. These include:

•    Family history of PAD and claudication
•    Being over the age of 50 and smoking or having diabetes
•    Chronic kidney disease
•    High cholesterol
•    High blood pressure
•    Diabetes
•    Obesity
•    Smoking

What Are the Treatment Options?
If you are diagnosed with claudication, your healthcare provider will likely create a personalized treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms, reduce pain, and reduce your chances of experiencing other complications, such as heart disease. Staying active is one of the most effective ways to treat claudication. Exercise can help alleviate pain, makes it possible to stay active for longer periods of time in the future, promotes good circulation, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.

If you have pain in your thighs, calves, buttocks, or feet when you walk, don't wait to schedule an appointment with the trusted team at the Vascular Institute of the Rockies. We can help determine if claudication is to blame and create an individualized treatment plan to meet your unique needs. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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