Claudication, comes from the Latin word "claudicare" meaning to limp. This medical term refers to a pain, discomfort or tiredness in the legs or arms that occur during walking or exercise and is relieved by rest. It is most common in the calves but it can also affect the feet, thighs, hips, buttocks or arms .This pain is caused by a circulation problem in which the vessels that supply blood flow to the legs or arms are narrowed.

There are three types of claudication: Intermittent vascular, Spinal or neurogenic and jaw.



Claudication symptoms include:

  • Pain when exercising.
  • Intermittent pain.
  • Pain when at rest.
  • Discolored skin or ulceration.
  • An aching or burning feeling.
  • Weakness.



Claudication  technically is a symptom of a disease and most often is a symptom of peripheral artery disease. The peripheral artery disease PAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the limbs are damaged, usually as a result of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis narrows the arteries and makes them stiffer and harder, because the arteries get clogged with clumps of fat, cholesterol and other material, called atherosclerotic plaques. These plaques can make arteries so narrow that less blood can flow through them. So, the pain occurs because the leg muscles are not getting enough oxygenated blood and oxygen is the fuel that muscles need to contract.

Other conditions that cause the symptoms of claudication include spinal stenosis, peripheral neuropathy, certain musculoskeletal conditions and deep venous thrombosis.


Risk Factors

Risk factors for claudication are:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated blood levels of lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides )
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity (a body mass index over 30)
  • A family history of atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease or claudication
  • Age older than 50 years if you also smoke or have diabetes
  • Age older than 70 years

One study found that cigarette smoking was the most important  risk factor which cause claudication in 69 percent of patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). In contrast, alcohol consumption  may reduce the risk of claudication and PAD .

 Claudication is more common in men than in women, and affects 1 to 2 percent of the population under 60 years of age, increasing the percentage with age.



In extreme cases when the circulation in legs or arms can be so limited that the pain occur even at rest, the legs or arms might feel cool to the touch. Severe peripheral artery disease can lead to poor healing of skin injuries and ulcers. These cuts and ulcers can develop gangrene and require limb amputation.



 A healthy lifestyle is the best way of preventing claudication, which means:

  • Quit smoking
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
  • For diabetes patients, the blood sugar should be kept in good control.
  • Regular excercises.
  • Consumption of foods that are low in saturated fat.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.