What is Claudication?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Claudication is actually a symptom rather than a disease. Sometimes people with various problems related to circulation may experience a certain amount of muscle cramping in their lower extremities because there isn’t enough blood reaching the area. This is especially common in the main muscles of the calf and thigh. In most cases, exercise triggers the pain, and there are treatment options that lessen the degree of symptoms for most patients.

The cramps associated with claudication usually occur during strenuous activity. They aren’t exactly like the normal muscle pain associated with working out. For people suffering with claudication, the pain can become much more intense and it can even be hard to move the muscles because they are so severely cramped. After a bit of rest, many people are able to resume their activities without severe pain, but there are exceptions. In a few cases, people may develop such severe claudication that they have constant cramping even when they aren’t doing anything.


Muscles generally need oxygen to function, and if that is taken away, cramping is a likely result. Blood carries oxygen around the body, so if someone doesn’t have enough blood reaching his legs, claudication can easily occur, especially when the muscles are under stress. This is actually the same mechanism behind angina heart pain, only applied to the legs. Most of the people who suffer with this disorder have some kind of clogging of their circulatory systems or some other problem with circulation, such as a weak heart.

People who live very inactive lifestyles may never realize they suffer from claudication. The pain might not appear if individuals don’t put their muscles under enough stress. Even if they do experience pain, people may not realize why it is happening and could very possibly ignore it. A failure to recognize this pain could ultimately prove dangerous for people because claudication is a sign that the individual’s circulatory system is clogged, and most of the causes have the potential to worsen over time without treatment.

The treatment options for cases of claudication are usually related to exercising more. This condition often affects elderly individuals, so doctors may not recommend strenuous exercise. A typical approach would often be to suggest walking frequently and change the diet so that the individual doesn’t consume so many things that could clog the arteries. Doctors may also focus on the underlying cause of the disorder with medications or surgeries, depending on the situation.


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