What is it?

Claudication is the cramp like pain which develops in the muscles of the leg when walking. The pain is the result of narrowing or blockages of the arteries in the legs. The damage to the arteries is called peripheral arterial disease ('PAD').

Why does it occur?

Peripheral arterial disease occurs due to damage of the arteries usually as a result of smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. The arteries narrow or block or months and years to reduce the blood supply to the legs. The cramping symptoms are worse on exercising because the muscles demand for oxygen cannot be met by the narrowed arteries. When exercise stops the pain usually improves within 5 minutes.

What problems can it cause?

Most people who develop claudication will have symptoms which remain the same for many years. A few patients will improve and some will get worsening of their symptoms (especially if they continue to smoke).

Reasons for treatment?

All patients with claudication should have their cholesterol and blood pressure measured and should be encouraged to stop smoking. It is recommended that all people with claudication should have a variety of medications to protect their arteries form further damage.

Some people will benefit from structured exercise classes to improve how far they can walk. A minority may be recommended to have surgery to improve the circulation including key hole treatments (angioplasty) or bypass surgery.

The medical information provided here is intended solely for patients of the London & Surrey Vascular Clinic, it is general information only and should not be used as a substitute for personal advice received when consulting your own surgeon face-to-face.

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