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Claudication - What Exactly Is It?

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Claudication - What Exactly Is It?

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Claudication means feeling pain in the lower leg due to a lack of blood flow to the muscular system. More details will be discussed below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Published At July 11, 2022
Reviewed AtJuly 11, 2023


Claudication is the narrowing of blood vessels like those down in the thigh, calf, buttocks, and legs and making it small and stiff and more difficult for the blood to get through. The pain typically makes the person limp.

The word "claudication" originates from the Latin word "claudicare," which stands for limping.

Claudication is usually felt while walking and eases with rest. The most common complaint of individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is claudication. The pain usually occurs when physically active. In case of severe claudication, pain is also felt while resting. This condition is also called intermittent claudication. It usually affects adults over the age of 50. It is a very common problem seen in patients with diabetes mellitus and people who smoke. The most common types of claudication are vascular claudication and neurogenic claudication.

What Is Intermittent Claudication?

Claudication, also known as intermittent claudication, is caused by a constriction or blockage in the primary artery carrying blood to the leg (femoral artery). This is caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). The reason it is called intermittent is that it goes back and forth with exertion and relaxation.

Unfortunately, the blockage that causes the claudication will not disappear, but the condition may improve. Smaller arteries in the leg may expand to carry blood around the block in the main artery, which is referred to as collateral circulation. As collateral circulation develops, many people experience a reduction in their pain. It normally occurs between six to eight weeks after the onset of symptoms.

What Are the Types of Intermittent Claudication?

There are two types of claudication:

  • Vascular Claudication: Peripheral artery disease is a common cause of this syndrome. The pain usually occurs in the calves causing cramping, dullness, and tightness. The major aggravating factor is exercise and walking. And the alleviating factor is rest. There is an immediate onset of relief.

  • Neurogenic Claudication: Spinal and nervous system problems cause this type of claudication. The pain is usually located at the back, buttocks, and thighs. Factors exacerbating the conditions are walking, standing erect, and spinal extension. The intensity of pain is radicular, sharp, numbness, and tingling. And the main alleviating factor is spinal flexion. The onset of relief occurs only after minutes.

What Causes This Claudication?

There are many factors that contribute to claudication. People more than 55 or 60 years of age, and also those with a family history of claudication or certain types of heart disease, such as atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease (PAD). It also affects people who are overweight and have diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. Smokers also suffer from claudication.

What Are the Symptoms of Claudication?

Most patients with claudication show mild or no symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Pain with a burning feeling or a tired feeling in the legs and buttocks while walking.

  • Shiny, hairless spots on the feet and skin can cause ulcers.

  • Leg aches at night in bed.

  • When raising or lowering the leg: it may appear pale or red.

  • The affected area of ​​​​the leg is numb or weak.

  • Delayed growth of the toenails.

  • Pulse weakness or no pulse in the legs and feet may be felt on palpitations.

  • The feet or the bottom of the legs can get cold.

  • Erectile dysfunction among men is seen.

  • The lower legs can appear glossy or bluish.

  • Pain at rest is a sign that the arteries are blocked and getting worse.

Symptoms of claudication may resemble other health problems. Always seek advice from a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What Is the Risk of Claudication?

The following factors have the potential to increase the risk of developing claudication:

  • Use of tobacco.

  • Diabetes.

  • Kidney disease.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Hypertension.

  • Male and women over the age of 50 to 60 years of age.

  • Either being overweight or obese.

  • Do not engage in regular exercise.

  • A family history of certain heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis or peripheral arterial disease.

How Can Claudication Be Diagnosed?

There are several ways to diagnose claudication. Below are a few ways to diagnose the condition.

1. Physical Examination: Examining the pulses and blood pressure can help detect a blockage in the circulation. Doctors also examine the skin on the legs and feet for discoloration, sores, infections, or cuts and check the pulse in the arteries in the legs.

  • The patient's legs will be elevated while lying down. If the blood supply is normal, the legs will remain pink. Otherwise, the skin and legs become pale.

  • Then the legs are lowered below the level of the heart. People with intermittent claudication have deep redness or bluish redness in their legs. It usually starts on the toes and spreads to the legs. If there is an obstruction on the leg, it may feel cooler to the touch. Similarly, the skin under the blockage may appear thin, dry, shiny, or hairless.

  • By examining the nails, it could be seen that they have become brittle, thick, or ridged.

2. Ultrascope: It primarily identifies narrowing in blood vessels by detecting the location and degree of narrowing.

3. Ankle-Brachial Index: The ankle-arm index measures the blood pressure in the ankle in comparison with the blood pressure in the arm. Anomalous results indicate claudication.

4. Angiography: In angiography, a special dye is injected into the body to produce images. This allows for mapping the blood vessels. This can be done using X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How to Manage Claudication?

  • Exercising regularly.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Follow a healthy diet.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and taking care of the body.

  • Drug therapy.

  • In some cases, surgical intervention is necessary to perform.


In brief, claudication is not life-threatening; it is an obstruction in the arteries that carry blood, resulting in a reduction of the oxygen supply to the affected area, thus causing severe to mild pain. Usually, people with underlying diseases are affected. The most common cause is peripheral artery disease (PAD). Most people over the age of 55 years and those who lead unhealthy lives are at a higher risk of getting claudication. It could be treated with the help of drugs, and in some cases, surgeries are recommended.

With time, individuals may experience pain in their legs, even when they are not exercising. Cuts and leg injuries may not recover. Most importantly, staying healthy and maintaining a healthy diet are important things that could prevent claudication. It has the potential to cause serious health problems if left untreated.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Claudication Explained?

Claudication refers to a condition in which the person suffers from cramps in the legs caused by over-exercising an obstruction of the arteries. It leads to various cardiovascular conditions, often leading to strokes and heart attacks.


What is the Best Treatment for Claudication?

Exercise plays a huge role in this treatment because it reduces pain, improves vascular health in the affected limbs, helps in weight management, and improves the quality of life. 


Can Claudication Be Cured?

Claudication is a very treatable condition if it is diagnosed in its early stages. Still, with time, it can become worse and lead to other health issues and complications if not treated properly. 


Is it Possible to Recover from Claudication?

Changes in lifestyle and exercising properly can slow down the progression of this condition and sometimes even reverse the symptoms. 


Can Claudication in the Legs be Cured?

Claudication in the legs is generally considered as a threat of developing atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of getting a heart attack or a stroke, but this can be controlled by proper exercising and medication as prescribed by the doctor. 


What is the Best Test for Claudication?

One must undergo tests like ankle-brachial index, auscultation, doppler ultrasound, and angiography to diagnose claudication. 


How Long is Claudication Recovery?

It takes almost 6 to 8 weeks to recover from the onset of the symptoms, and some people notice some improvement in their pain as the collateral circulation keeps developing. 


What is Claudication Relieved By?

Exercise is the only thing that can do this, which includes physical therapy like stretching, strengthening, and other aerobic fitness, improving and stabilizing the muscles and posture, along with proper medications like anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications and epidural steroid injections. 


Is Claudication Sudden?

Claudication symptoms are generally very stable but can worsen with time or become severe, leading to disabilities and other complications if not treated properly. The onset of symptoms is mostly due to narrow blockages or hardened blood vessels. 


What Vitamins Help With Claudication?

Vitamin E is the only vitamin that would help recover from production, so it has been used for treatment for ages. 


Can Exercise Improve Claudication?

Exercise is one of the best treatments for claudication. Walking is the most recommended exercise. Walking at a moderate pace for at least 30 to 45 minutes per session, at least 3 times a week for the 12 weeks, is needed for recovery. 


What Is Maximum Claudication?

Maximum claudication refers to the maximum production distance, which means the distance after which the patient has to be stopped because of the pain and muscle cramps that he or she is suffering from. 


What Is the Survival Rate of Claudication?

Claudication has a very high risk of developing further cardiovascular complications and has a mortality rate of 30%, especially for patients who already suffer from cardiovascular diseases.


Can You Walk Through Claudication?

Yes, walking is extremely recommended as a treatment for recovering from claudication. For proper recovery, the patient must walk thrice a week for at least 30 to 45 minutes per session for 12 weeks.


What Foods Should Be Avoided With Claudication?

Foods like Coconut whipped cream, fatty meats like rib, pork chops, processed lunch meat, hot dogs, and desserts rich in dairy or sugar and whole milk should be avoided if someone suffers from cloud education to prevent further cardiovascular conditions.  
Dr. Rajesh Gulati
Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Family Physician


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