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Understanding Claudication

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, your heart health matters to us.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with claudication or are experiencing new or worsening symptoms consistent with the condition, schedule an appointment today.

Here, we describe claudication, including its common symptoms, tie to PAD, and effective treatment options. 

What is Claudication?

Claudication is a cardiovascular-related condition that causes muscle pain or cramping in an extremity, usually the legs, that results from insufficient blood flow. It occurs most often in the calves, thighs, and buttocks. 

Claudication Symptoms

Claudication is characterized by symptoms like:

  • Pain or muscle cramping in the calves, thighs, buttocks, hips, or feet that subsides after resting
  • Pain, ache, discomfort, or fatigue in muscles during use
  • Occasionally, pain in the shoulders, biceps, and forearms

Even before being diagnosed as claudication, peripheral artery disease will present one or more of the following additional symptoms:

  • Cool skin
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Skin discoloration
  • Severe, constant pain that results in numbness

What Causes Claudication?

Claudication is generally triggered by a lack of oxygen to the muscles. 

Claudication is often called “intermittent claudication” because it usually isn’t constant. Most often, pain occurs when sufferers walk for an extended period and subside after resting. These intervals can change over time as the condition becomes more or less severe.

Rather than being a disease, claudication is technically a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). 

PAD often results from atherosclerosis, an arterial disease in which cholesterol, fat, scar tissue, and other substances clog artery walls and obstruct blood flow. Though the relationship between atherosclerosis, PAD, and claudication isn’t always precise, they have a common progression. Blood vessels are clogged due to atherosclerosis, which leads to restricted blood flow in limbs (PAD), leading to pain from that restricted blood flow (claudication).

Typically, claudication only occurs during exercise because limited blood flow is sufficient at rest. As a result, people with PAD often abstain from exercise, believing it to be the root of the problem. Unfortunately, this assumption often causes claudication to worsen.

Who’s at Risk of Developing Claudication?

Risk factors for claudication closely match those for both PAD and atherosclerosis and include:

  • Age – 15-20% of adults over the age of 70 suffer from peripheral artery disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • History of kidney diseases
  • Family history of atherosclerosis, PAD, or claudication

Reduce Your Risk of Claudication

While you cannot completely prevent claudication or PAD from developing, there are several ways to reduce the risk of developing either condition. 

Without obstructed blood vessels, atherosclerosis will not develop. In addition, without atherosclerosis, PAD and claudication are far less likely.

The most effective ways to reduce your risk of claudication include:

  • Quitting smoking 
  • Exercising regularly 
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Treating high-risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes

Diagnosing Claudication

Diagnosis for claudication depends on physical examinations, skin evaluations of affected limbs, and blood flow tests. 

Some specific claudication tests include:

  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI) – measures blood pressure in your arms and compares it to your ankles.
  • Doppler ultrasound – uses a doppler probe within an ultrasound probe to measure the direction and speed of blood flow. It bounces sound waves off red blood cells, then picks up the waves and amplifies them. Typically, faint or nonexistent sounds indicate a blockage.
  • Angiogram – takes an X-ray image of blood vessels. 
  • Exercise testing – determines how far or long you can walk without pain or unmanageable pain.
  • Segmented blood pressure testing – incrementally measures blood pressure throughout your arm or leg to find the level and location of arterial blockage.

Claudication Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with claudication, a personalized treatment plan may consist of:

  • a combination of periodic exercises to rebuild strength and improve the health of your limbs
  • medication to manage pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other cardiovascular risks
  • surgery such as an angiogram with intervention or traditional open surgery can be required (arterial bypass or endarterectomy) in rare cases

Treatment for claudication concentrates on

  • relieving pain
  • preventing tissue damage
  • improving mobility
  • reducing the risk of vascular disease through a less painful exercise regimen

The team of specialists at CardioVascular Health Clinic is experienced in diagnosing and treating a wide range of vascular pain and disorders. 

With a patient-centered approach, using the latest technology and methods, our physicians are committed to helping restore your quality of life.

You don’t have to live with pain. Call CardioVascular Health Clinic today at (405) 701-9880 to schedule an appointment today. 

Patient Resources

We’re committed to timely, efficient, and affordable care.
Here is a collection of useful resources our new and existing patients need in one convenient location.
Please let us know if you need additional information or have any questions.


I’m about one month out and things are so much better. At my two week evaluation my symptom score had gone from a 27 to a 7, and I’m sure it’s even better now. That speaks volumes. Now that I’m post recovery, there is no incontinence, I go to the bathroom much less and there are no ED side effects like there are with other procedures. In regard to my quality of life, well, I don’t maintain my life based on my proximity to a bathroom anymore.

Blaine P., M.D.
Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
LeAnn H.

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

Susie H.

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

Tamara M.

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

David L.

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

Kathy J.

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

Angie W.

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

D Watts

Some of the nicest staff that I have ever dealt with!! They have been so incredibly awesome to my mom!! Would definitely recommend them to anyone!! Thank you so much for being so great with her!!

Christy G.

The staff, the nurses, and Dr. Parsons were all amazing. Everything was simple and went well – very Bravo Zulu (military phrase meaning "well done"). In addition to the great staff at CardioVascular Health Clinic, the facilities were clean and well maintained. I have no complaints about anything. The whole experience was A1. I would recommend Dr. Parsons to anyone. He made a huge impact on my life.

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