Claudication is a pain caused by an obstruction in the blood flow due to a narrowing of blood vessels to either your legs or your arms, usually during exercise. As claudication worsens, you may notice discomfort even when you are resting. Typically, claudication is a symptom of a vascular disease called peripheral artery disease (PAD) and can be relatively easy to treat.

What is Claudication?

Technically, claudication is a symptom of a disease, not a disease in its own right. Most often, claudication is a symptom of peripheral artery disease, a potentially serious but treatable circulation problem in which the vessels that supply blood flow to your legs or arms are narrowed.

Why Does Claudication Occur When You are Active?

When you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen to function properly. Your heart sends out blood cells filled with necessary oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body through arteries. In a healthy artery, this transferring of nutrients would go unnoticed, but it can become painful if there is an obstruction or hardening of the artery.

Old age is the most common cause of peripheral heart disease, as plaque builds up over the course of a lifetime, but there are certain risk factors that can increase your odds of contracting peripheral artery disease:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Family history of heart and vascular disease

When you visit a vascular specialist, they will ask you questions about your medical history and your health. During a physical exam, the specialist will normally check your pulse at various locations of your body to assess if you are getting proper circulation in your arms or legs.

In addition to a physical examination, your vascular specialist may perform some additional tests:

  • Duplex ultrasound
  • Cholesterol level test
  • Ankle-brachial index

If your tests suggest you have PAD, your vascular specialist will create a treatment plan to work on the underlying causes of your disease and not just the symptoms. Fortunately, with treatment and lifestyle changes, you may be able to maintain your quality of life without any pain.

Treatment options include:

  • Blood pressure medication
  • Weight loss
  • Exercise therapy
  • Vascular surgery

If you think you are suffering from claudication, don’t suffer in silence. Make an appointment with one of our peripheral vascular disease doctors today.