What is Claudication?
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) can cause the artery that normally supplies blood to the muscle to become narrow. When that happens, less blood can flow through the artery. When you’re resting, enough blood flows to the muscle to meet the needs of the muscle. However, when you walk, the working muscle needs more blood. The narrowed artery may not let enough blood through.
What causes Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication?
The most common cause of narrow or blocked arteries is the buildup of fatty deposits inside them. This is called atherosclerosis. Claudication occurs because not enough blood is flowing to a muscle you are actively using.
How is Claudication diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect that your arteries have narrowed and will check the pulses in arteries in your legs and feet. The doctor will listen to the blood flow with a stethoscope or a small Doppler device. Your doctor may hear a noise called a bruit, which can be a warning that there is a narrowed area in the artery. Blood pressure in your ankles can also be compared to blood pressure in your arms. This test is called an ankle-brachial index, or ABI. Your doctor may do some other tests to look into possible PAD. They may also do tests to see if arteries in other parts of your body have atherosclerosis.
Can PAD and claudication be prevented or avoided?
Peripheral arterial disease and claudication risk factors include high blood pressure and diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, and older age. Claudication is also more likely in people with atherosclerosis in other arteries, such as the arteries in the heart or brain. People who have claudication may have already had heart attacks or strokes.
Claudication Questions for your doctor
- What is the likely cause of my PAD/claudication?
- What lifestyle changes do I need to make at home to help relieve my symptoms?
- Is it safe for me to exercise? How do I get started?
- What treatment option is best for me? Will I need medicine? Surgery?
- Will the medicine you’re prescribing interact with the medicine(s) I already take?
- What symptoms will indicate that my condition is getting worse?
- Do PAD or claudication put me at risk for any long-term problems?
What can I do to prevent claudication?
Hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) that cause claudication in your legs can also affect the blood vessels in your heart and brain. For this reason, reducing your risk factors for atherosclerosis is very important. This can help prevent claudication as well as heart attack and stroke.
You can reduce your risk factors by:
- Treating high blood pressure
- Lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol, as directed by your doctor
- Raising your HDL (good) cholesterol, as directed by your doctor
- Lowering fats in your blood (triglycerides)
- Staying at a normal weight
- Increasing your physical activity, especially walking
- Controlling blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Stopping smoking and avoiding all types of tobacco or nicotine
How is Claudication-related PAD treated?
To salvage the limbs, PAD is medically treated with prescribed medications. These medications treat high cholesterol and control blood pressure. As well as decrease pain while walking to increase exercise. They also aim to prevent plaque buildup or blood clot formation.
Peripheral artery disease is also treated using minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures. Angioplasty is when the blocked artery is opened using a medical balloon, enabling better blood flow. In some cases, the affected arteries need to remain open using a stent, which is a small metal cylinder. This treatment is stenting.
Stent-Graft Procedure for PAD
A stent graft is another procedure. This is when a stent covered with a synthetic fabric is placed in the blood vessels to bypass affected arteries. A third interventional radiology procedure for peripheral artery disease is called atherectomy. This procedure uses a small catheter at the site of the blockage to shave the plaque away from the inside of the artery and remove it from the patient’s body.
Sometimes, PAD may be severe enough that a medical team has no choice but to perform surgery. This may be the only way to remove blockages or create bypasses around congested areas.
Can peripheral arterial disease be treated without medical intervention?
If found early enough, a patient may be able to treat PAD with lifestyle changes. This often entails quitting smoking, undertaking an exercise program, and focusing on a healthy diet. It is important to note that if you believe you may be suffering from PAD, you must see a doctor. This is potentially a limb and life-threatening condition. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for you.