What Is Claudication?

Claudication refers to limping because of pain in the thigh, calf, and/or buttocks that occurs when walking. Claudication may be a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is caused by a narrowing or blockage of arteries in the legs and/or aorta (the largest artery in the body and the primary blood vessel leading from the heart to the body), which may cause decreased blood flow to the muscles of the calf, thigh, or buttocks. This decreased blood flow may cause claudication. The pain associated with claudication occurs with walking but disappears at rest.

Claudication may be a symptom of underlying systemic artery disease and is seen more often in persons who have blockages in other arteries, including the heart and brain. Because claudication is associated with an increased risk for heart attack or stroke, its presence signals the need for assessment and possible treatment.

About 9 million Americans, about 12 percent of the population, experience occasional claudication. Of those who are age 70 or more, about 20 percent are affected. About 25 percent of people who have hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) in the legs experience claudication.

Claudication generally occurs when walking the same distance. With progressive vessel disease, the initial claudication distance (that distance at which a person first experiences pain when walking) may decrease or the person may no longer be able to walk.

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