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Intermittent Claudication (Leg Pain)

What is intermittent claudication?

Leg pain, otherwise known as Intermittent Claudication, is a condition which is caused by inadequate blood flow in the muscles of the leg.

What are the symptoms of intermittent claudication?

Symptoms of intermittent claudication include pain and cramping in the leg. This leg pain is usually felt when the person is walking though in severe conditions, it may be felt when they are resting. The leg pain may also be associated with limping if it is severe.

​If the arteries are blocked further up in the leg or in the pelvis or abdomen, the person may also develop thigh pain, groin pain and erectile dysfunction.

What are the causes of intermittent claudication?

Intermittent claudication is most often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD). This is a condition which is caused by artherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries that develops when cholesterol plaques accumulate inside the blood vessels.

Risk factors for developing the PAD that leads to intermittent claudication include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels. Having blocked leg arteries is therefore a risk factor for developing heart disease and strokes.

How is the diagnosis of intermittent claudication made?

The diagnosis of intermittent claudication is made after the doctor listens to the patient’s symptoms, examines them and orders a Doppler ultrasound. This ultrasound investigation helps them determine the exact location of the narrowing of the arteries.

Computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) can also be done to determine the severity of the blood vessel blockage.

What is the treatment of intermittent claudication?

Intermittent claudication can be treated by medications or by surgery. The medical treatment of intermittent claudication includes medications like cilostazol which widens the arteries to improve the flow of blood through them and reduce pain. Pentoxifylline is another medication which also increases the flow of blood to the leg muscles by reducing the viscosity of blood.

​The surgical treatment of intermittent claudication which is called revascularization, is a procedure done on patients who do not respond to the medications. This revascularization can be done by angioplasty which involves placing a balloon in the blocked artery to widen it. Stents which are meshes made of wire, can also be inserted in the blood vessels to keep them open.

 Intermittent claudication can also be treated by open surgery. This procedure involves sewing a graft made from the patient’s vein or a manmade tube in the leg to bypass the blocked area.

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