Intermittent claudication is a clinical diagnosis that is classically described as a debilitating cramping pain or ache that is felt in the calf, thigh or buttock, reliably brought on by walking and relieved by a short period of rest.
Intermittent claudication is caused by narrowing (stenosis) or blockage (occlusion) of one or more of the arteries supplying the affected leg as a result of atherosclerosis (fatty deposits); this causes reduced blood flow to the leg muscles. Blood flow is often sufficient when resting but upon walking the demand for increased blood flow by the muscles is eventually unable to be met resulting in pain in the leg due to lactic acid buildup. The distance the patient is able to walk without stopping -claudication distance- varies little from day to day, but greater demands on the muscles such as climbing a flight of stairs or walking uphill will result in the pain coming on quicker than when walking on the flat.
Intermittent claudication is closely associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular complications including heart attack and stroke. At the Circulation Clinic your investigations and treatment will be aimed at both a) improving walking distance e.g. supervised exercise programme, angioplasty, bypass surgery, and b) cardiovascular risk factor optimisation e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity.