What is intermittent claudication?

Intermittent claudication is the medical term for pain, numbness, achiness, burning, heaviness or cramping in the legs that occurs during activities such as walking or climbing stairs. You may feel these symptoms in any of your lower limb muscles, including those in the feet, calves, thighs, or buttocks. Intermittent claudication may be localized or diffuse, affecting one or both legs. Symptoms usually decrease after the activity is stopped and the muscles rest.

Intermittent claudication is primarily caused by peripheral artery disease, also called peripheral vascular disease. In this condition, your muscles cannot get enough oxygen because blood circulation has been blocked or restricted in the arteries. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) causes peripheral artery disease.

Atherosclerosis is a common cardiovascular disease in the United States. The disease is a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. Most commonly, people develop atherosclerosis as a result of diabetes, genetic risk factors, high blood pressure, a high-fat diet, obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, and smoking.

Although life-threatening complications of intermittent claudication are rare, individuals with intermittent claudication due to peripheral artery disease may be at risk for heart attack and stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest area, severe or sudden headache, or difficulty walking, or if you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke.

Seek prompt medical care if your intermittent claudication is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with intermittent claudication?

Intermittent claudication may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.... Read more about intermittent claudicationsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes intermittent claudication?

Peripheral artery disease is the primary cause of intermittent claudication. In this condition, plaque, consisting mainly of fat and cholesterol, adheres to the walls of arteries that deliver blood to the muscles of the lower limbs. The plaque blocks or restricts the flow of blood through the arteries to the muscles.... Read more about intermittent claudicationcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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