Cheltenham Vascular Unit

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Intermittent Claudication

What is intermittent claudication?
If you experience cramping pains in your legs when walking which stop when you rest, you may be suffering from a condition known as claudication. The most common cause of the pain is a narrowing or blockage in your main artery carrying blood to your leg (this condition is sometimes called atherosclerosis or ‘hardening of the arteries’).  The pain is not there all the time, hence the term intermittant claudication.
The pain can cause the sufferer to limp, the  word "claudication" comes from the Latin "claudicare" meaning to limp

What causes intermittent claudication?
Problems with the arteries tend to become more common as you get older. The health of your arteries can be affected by many factors including:

Narrowing or blockage in the artery prevents enough blood from reaching your leg muscles as you exercise or walk. Without adequate blood flow the muscles are starved of oxygen and this causes cramp and pain, this is usually relieved by resting for a few minutes.

How is it detected?
A blockage in the circulation can be detected by examining the pulses in the legs. If there is a blockage this will result in the loss of one or more of these pulses.

Treatment of claudification

In the majority of patients with claudication the symptoms can be improved with conservative treatment:

There is good evidence that people who take regular daily exercise are more likely to improve their circulation. Start by taking two short walks a day. Almost certainly you will notice the distance you are able to walk without pain slowly but steadily increasing.

If you are overweight, staff can give you advice with regard to weight reduction. If your blood cholesterol is high a low fat diet will be recommended and you may also require cholesterol- lowering drugs.

If you are a smoker you must make every effort to stop completely. Smoking speeds up the hardening of the arteries and closes down the small collateral arteries.
You can obtain help from the Gloucestershire smoking cessation service and GP practice nurse if you require it.

· Smoking
· High blood pressure
· Diabetes
· Being overweight
Using a doppler the blood pressure in the leg can be measured and compared with    the pressure in the arm. This measurement is called the ABPI and provides an accurate measurement of the circulation in the legs.
A duplex (ultrasound) study may be requested.The ultrasound scan will show the size of vessels, blood flow, and any narrowing or blockages of the arteries.
Measuring blood pressure in the leg
with a doppler
· Regular walking
· Weight reduction if overweight
· Stop smoking
· Taking an aspirin and a statin tablet daily may be recommended
Futher information
The information contained on this website is intended as a guide only, it is not intended to substitute for medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.
Please see your doctor with any questions regarding personal health or medical conditions