Claudication. No, it’s not a fancy form of vacation. In fact, quite the opposite. Do your legs ever feel like they’ve partied a little too hard? Claudication is leg pain caused by limited blood flow, typically while walking or climbing stairs. The word “claudication” comes from the Latin term “claudicare”, meaning to limp.
Calf pain is usually the hard target for claudication because the accumulation of cholesterol plaques and fatty acids (due to atherosclerosis) often begins in the arteries farthest from the heart. If the plaque formation develops farther up the leg, pain from claudication may be felt in the thigh, hip or buttocks. Poor oxygen supply from claudication and its pain is due to narrowing or blocked arteries that carry blood to the leg.
Claudication is often an indicator of a medical condition called peripheral artery disease, or PAD, which blocks blood flow to the extremities, most commonly in the legs. An estimated 8.5 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease, affecting 12% to 20% of Americans over age 60, according to Medical News Today.
PAD symptoms include: leg pain (claudication) that can be sharp or dull, aching or throbbing, cramping or burning usually during exercise; discoloration or paleness of the leg; cool-feeling skin; sores that heal slowly in the leg or foot; brittle toenails; and difficulty finding a pulse in the leg or foot.
What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease?
As mentioned, PAD results from atherosclerosis, a gradual process in which fatty material builds up inside the arteries. Clots can form when plaque breaks off and enters the bloodstream. Risk factors that contribute to PAD are:
- Diabetes, especially in patients over 50
- African-American descent
- Family history of heart, kidney or vascular disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Obesity and sedentary lifestyle
Early PAD diagnosis is important, and treatment under the guidance of your PAD specialist at Lam Vascular & Associates is your ticket to pain relief.
Take a Stand Against PAD
Diagnosis and treatment of PAD by Lam Vascular & Associates can get you back on your feet in no time. There are a number of ways we can check your legs:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI), a test that compares the blood pressure in your ankle with your arm
- Angiography to show blood flow and find any blockages that may be present
- Blood tests to check levels of cholesterol, homocysteine and C-reactive protein
- Ultrasound that uses sound waves to measure blood flow in an artery to pinpoint the presence of a blockage
- If further tests are required, an MRI scan or CT angiography may help identify the extent of narrowing in your blood vessels due to atherosclerosis.
Untreated PAD can be dangerous, leading to more leg pain, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and even amputation.
Often the first steps Lam Vascular & Associates takes in managing PAD are to prescribe medication and encourage you to lose weight, stop smoking and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
The overall goal for treating peripheral artery disease at Lam Vascular & Associates is to alleviate pain. In severe cases, Dr. Lam may recommend peripheral bypass surgery, angioplasty or stenting to restore blood circulation in your legs and give you back your ability to walk. Schedule an initial appointment with us today if you suspect your leg pain (claudication) may be more serious. Lam Vascular & Associates has convenient locations in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.