Claudication

Claudication is pain or a tired or weak feeling that occurs in your legs, usually during activity such as walking. The symptoms typically begin when you start to exercise, and go away a short time after you rest. Your arteries carry blood rich with oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body. When the arteries that carry blood to your legs become narrowed or blocked, your leg muscles may not receive enough of the blood and oxygen they need to support physical activity. Physicians call this lack of oxygen ischemia.

Early signs

Initially, your legs may receive enough blood while you are at rest so that you do not experience any discomfort without activity.Your muscles need more oxygen when you exercise, so if the arteries in your legs are narrowed to the point that too little blood reaches your muscles, you may feel leg pain when you walk.

Knowing your risks

Claudication, which physicians also call intermittent claudication because it happens off and on, is a serious warning symptom because people who have it are also at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Your arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside but, as you age, they can become blocked through a process called atherosclerosis, also called "hardening of the arteries." As you age, a sticky substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue. As more plaque builds up, your arteries can narrow and stiffen. Eventually, enough plaque builds up to reduce blood flow to your leg arteries. Physicians call this condition peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
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  • Symptoms of claudication
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