Claudication is a common condition in which pain occurs in the legs with exercise.
This pain is the result of a reduction in blood flow to the leg muscles.
How can I know if I have claudication?
The most common symptom is a pain like cramping in the calf muscles when walking. The muscles of the thighs and hips can also feel pain. If you rest briefly, the pain will disappear being comfortable to walk again.
Tests for claudication
Doctors use the distance you can walk along a flat surface (not up) before the pain starts as an approximate guide to the severity of your condition. The doctors will examine the pulses in the leg to see if they are weaker than normal or if they are absent. To confirm the diagnosis, you can measure blood pressure in the legs when they are at rest, and after walking on a treadmill.
The treatment of claudication
The most important part of treatment for claudication is making sure your arteries do not get worse. Atherosclerosis affects not only the arteries of the leg, but also your heart (heart attacks) and the brain (can cause strokes). Therefore, this is a warning, which could lead to a more serious illness.
If you smoke, it is vital that you stop doing it completely.
Tests will also be done for diabetes, high blood pressure (called hypertension) and high cholesterol, because if these diseases are the cause of atherosclerosis, you may have to take a special diet or take some medication.
If you are overweight, losing weight will help improve the quality of your arteries. To help your arteries, your doctor may advise you to take a small dose of aspirin once a day. Regular exercise is also good for the legs.
Walking will help you
When you have claudication, walking can be frustrating because of the frequent stops that are necessary when the legs become painful. However, it is important to persist and try to walk every day, because increasing the distance improves the pain in the legs.
Over a period of three to six months, the leg muscles become more efficient, allowing you to walk more in the limited blood supply. If claudication is still a problem, then you will have to have an ultrasound of the leg (use sound waves to see the blood flow) or an angiogram (a type of X-ray with injected contrast) to see exactly where they are narrowing or blockages in the arteries.
Angiograms are performed on an x-ray table, which takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes. With the use of a local anesthetic, a needle is placed with a catheter that passes through the groin artery so that the dye can be injected, where by means of the X-ray plate the dye can be detected, allowing the Doctors observe where the arteries are blocked or narrow.
Doctors can treat some narrowing and blockages in the arteries by using a special balloon to stretch and open the artery again. This operation is called an angioplasty,which is similar to having an angiogram, except that you feel a little discomfort while the artery is stretching.
If there is a severe blockage in the artery, angioplasty may not be possible. In these circumstances, if the claudication is bad, a bypass operation will be considered and discussed with you. This will provide a blood supply in parallel to the tissues but it means taking a glass from another part of your body.
In some cases, the risks of angioplasty or bypass surgery may be too high, which is why it is recommended to exercise and lose weight, before considering surgery.