Claudication is most often a symptom of peripheral artery disease. In peripheral artery disease, the arteries that supply blood to your limbs are damaged, usually as a result of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can develop in any of your arteries, especially those in your heart. When atherosclerosis affects your arms and legs, it's called peripheral artery disease.
Atherosclerosis makes arteries hard and narrow. That's because the arteries get clogged with clumps of fat, cholesterol and other material, called atherosclerotic plaques. These plaques can make arteries so narrow that less blood can flow through them. You feel pain because your leg muscles are not getting enough oxygenated blood. Oxygen is the fuel that muscles need to contract.
Claudication isn't the only possible cause of your symptoms. Other conditions associated with similar symptoms that need to be considered include spinal stenosis, peripheral neuropathy, certain musculoskeletal conditions and deep venous thrombosis.
Jan. 20, 2012
- Mohler ER. Clinical features, diagnosis, and natural history of lower extremity peripheral arterial disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 18, 2011.
- Peripheral artery disease. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/peripheral_arterial_disorders/peripheral_arterial_disease.html. Accessed Nov. 18, 2011.
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- Rooke TW, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (updating the 2005 guideline). Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;58:2020.
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- Ahimastos AA, et al. A meta-analysis of the outcome of endovascular and noninvasive therapies in the treatment of intermittent claudication. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2011;54:1511.
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