Have you ever been walking or jogging and felt pain in your legs? Or maybe you were doing pushups as fast as you can and your arm muscles began to ache? It's common to feel some muscle ache after working out hard, but sometimes the ache can be more serious. If the pain continues for a long while or does not go away after some rest, medical attention should be sought, as it may be claudication.
Claudication is pain -- generally found in the legs -- that is due to lack of oxygen. Unlike regular muscle aches caused by fatigue or exercise, this is due to the narrowed veins that generally come from atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of blood vessels that occurs when an abundance of cholesterol in the blood causes plaques to form in the veins.
Claudication is a symptom of Peripheral Arterial Disease, commonly referred to as PAD. PAD is a treatable circulation disease that results from the narrowing of blood vessels that generally comes from atherosclerosis and can be quite serious if left untreated.
Claudication generally causes pain in the legs because atherosclerosis tends to affect the legs more than other body parts. The plaques tend to form at the furthest point from the heart, and the legs are the furthest from the heart.
The pain of claudication can be sharp or dull, but is usually intermittent. This occurs because when you walk or other exertion occurs, the need for oxygen increases and results in decreased blood flow in the veins. The blood flow in the legs cannot keep up with the demand for oxygen, which results in pain. When walking stops, the pain usually subsides.
However, over time rest alone will not relieve pain due to continued plaque formation and inability of oxygen to restore the leg muscles. Plaques may form in the arms as well and can also cause pain with exertion. While atherosclerosis and cholesterol plaques are generally the reason for claudication, blood vessels could spasm and also cause pain and may happen regardless of exertion.
Treatment for claudication generally begins with medication that widens the vein or decreases the stickiness of the blood, which improves the circulation in the leg and decreases the pain. Sometimes medication to thin the blood is used, but this treatment will only decrease symptoms, not cure the main issue. If medical treatment does not work, or if the damage is too severe, then more serious treatment will be sought. This can include angioplasty or vascular surgery.
Angioplasty is a procedure that opens veins. It works by inserting a narrow tube with a ballon attached into the vein and then inflating the ballon in the narrow portions of the vein, thus increasing the size of the vein. If the veins are dangerously constricted, surgery might be needed and would be a form of vascular or vein surgery. Vascular surgery would likely include rerouting blood flow through vein grafting or shunting. A vein graft is when a blood vessel is taken from one part of the body and inserted to redirect blood flow around the damaged vessel. Shunting is similar, but it typically involves synthetic vessels that move the blood around the damaged vessel or vessels.
Some activities or conditions can increase your risk of acquiring PAD, atherosclerosis and claudication. Some of these include high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and others. If you decrease your cholesterol, stop smoking, decrease your weight, and decrease your blood pressure, it may be possible to decrease the possibility of damage from atherosclerosis. In doing this, the risk of claudication may also be decreased.
Claudication comes from atherosclerosis and is a symptom of PAD, or peripheral artery disease. It can be serious and require surgery, or it can be less serious and treated with medication. While this is a disease that tends to affect older adults, younger people can potentially reduce the risk of having claudication by not smoking, keeping their weight within normal range, and eating a healthy diet.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack