Claudication is characterized by pain in the legs or arms caused by lack of blood flow. The pain often appears during exercise. Claudication is usually thought of as a symptom of a disorder, not as a disorder itself. Claudication is most often a symptom of peripheral artery disease where there is a block in an artery, which inhibits the blood flow and causes pain. Less commonly, it can be caused by neurogenic claudication, which is due to issues in the nerves coming from the spinal cord.
Symptoms of claudication may include pain while exercising, pain while resting, or pain that may come and go. Other symptoms are discolored skin, ulcers, an aching or burning feeling, and weakness. There are many risk factors for claudication, which include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Your risk can also increase as you age and if you have a family history of atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease, or claudication. Claudication is also a symptom found in individuals with Takayasu’s arteritis, fibromuscular dysplasia and Buerger’s disease as well as rare genetic conditions such as pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE).
Claudication is sometimes thought to be a sign of aging, but there are tests and treatments available. To diagnose claudication, your doctor may check your pulse, compare the blood pressure in your arms and legs (ankle-brachial test), or perform some imaging tests. In order to treat claudication, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or increasing exercise. There are also medications available. In more severe cases, there are also several surgical treatment options. If you have been diagnosed with claudication, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support organizations are also a good source of information and will help connect you with others living with claudication.