Claudication is pain or discomfort felt in the legs during walking. The word claudication is derived from the Latin word claudicatio, which means "to limp."

Claudication is a symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Claudication occurs when the arteries in your legs do not receive enough blood and oxygen due to narrowed or blocked arteries. In most cases, this blockage is caused by atherosclerosis. Because atherosclerosis may occur throughout the body and not just in the legs, it is critical to diagnose claudication as it may predict an increased risk for other health problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Symptoms of claudication

Typical symptoms of claudication include:

  • Discomfort or pain in one or both legs that happens when you walk and goes away when you rest
  • Tightness, heaviness, cramping or weakness in one or both of your legs when you walk

Risk factors

Risk factors for claudication and other symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD) caused by atherosclerosis are:

  • Smoking or a history of smoking
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Family history of vascular or heart disease

What to expect at your medical exam

Your vascular surgeon will try to determine if you have claudication and peripheral artery disease and then recommend the best treatment for you. Your evaluation will include questions about your symptoms, their location and how often and for how long they have occurred. You'll also discuss your general health.

Your consultation will include a physical examination, including pulse tests. Your vascular surgeon will feel your pulse at various locations and may listen to it with an instrument called a doppler. Because atherosclerosis can affect any artery in your body, your vascular surgeon will usually check arteries in other parts of your body in addition to your legs.

Diagnostic testing

Your physician may request other tests in order to make a diagnosis. These may include:

Treatment for claudication

Depending on your situation, your vascular surgeon will develop a treatment program for your claudication. Treatment generally begins with lifestyle modifications. Surgery may be needed for more severe cases. Learn more about treatment for claudication arrows