Intermittent Claudication of the Leg: A Threat to Your Health

Author: The Melbury Clinic and VeinCare Centre

This leg symptom is very common problem. One in five people over the age of 60 are affected and it reduces quality of life, is associated with reduced life expectancy and it is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. In this short video, I will explain what intermittent claudication is, what causes it, why it is important and what you should do about it.

So what is this symptom? It is defined as pain in a muscle or muscle group, brought on by exercise and relieved by rest. In theory, any muscle can be affected but in general, the commonest muscles are in the calf. So if you have intermittent claudication you will experience pain in the calf when you walk. The pain will not come on straight away, in fact, when you set off, you will have no pain at all. The pain usually starts after a few minutes.

You may notice that the distance you can walk before it comes on is pretty constant. For example, it may start after you reach the post box or the newsagent. This distance is called the claudication distance. The pain may be mild and you may be able to carry on regardless, or you may need to stop. If you do stop, the pain will go quickly, within a few minutes and once the pains goes completely, you will be able to walk again without pain until you reach your claudication distance. If you need to walk quickly or walk up hill, the claudication distance will be shorter.

So why is intermittent claudication an important leg symptom. Well the pain is caused by a restriction in blood flow to the leg and it is a marker for a generalised artery disease called atherosclerosis. If you have this symptom, you are at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, your life expectancy is reduced. So people with intermittent claudication have a shorter life.

Intermittent Claudication of the Leg: A Threat to Your Health

So here’s the part you want to know. What should you do? Firstly, if you smoke, you should stop immediately. People with intermittent claudication who continue to smoke run the risk of leg gangrene and amputation. However those who do manage to stop, almost never deteriorate to the point of amputation. In addition, you need to be checked out for diabetes and high blood pressure and you should have a non-invasive check of the blood circulation of your legs.

Intermittent claudication is an important leg symptom. It gives important information about your general health and it should not be ignored. Here are my top tips. Any leg pain in a muscle should not be ignored.

If you have intermittent claudication get it checked by ultrasound. Get checked for important risk factor such as diabetes and high blood pressure and if you smoke, do your best to stop. If you would like more information about leg health visit our website or request our free information leaflet on intermittent claudication.

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