Newport Beach, CA

Dr. David Nabi, MD, FACS

PAD and Claudication: What is Claudication and Why Does It Matter

Have you heard the saying, "Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong?" Pain in the legs can have many causes, but one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed is claudication.

Claudication is the first stage of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Its name comes from the Latin word "claudicare," which means "to limp." As it relates to PAD, claudication describes the pain, achiness, and muscle fatigue experienced primarily in the thighs and calves, which is brought on by physical activity. The pain develops with taking a walk or even a short stroll to the point where normal activities such as walking the dog or climbing stairs become difficult. Claudication pain can be relieved with a quick rest (less than five minutes) when PAD is in its earliest stage. However, when PAD progresses, the pain can become so debilitating that you will no longer be able to take a quick stroll around your block without stopping every few steps. 

The next part of understanding claudication pain, which is caused by exertion, is understanding what such discomfort can mean to your health. With a disease like PAD, there is an accumulation of plaque in your arteries. This buildup is also known as atherosclerosis. If you break down the word "atherosclerosis," you will learn that "ather/o" means "yellow plaque or fatty substance," and "sclerosis" means "hardening." With plaque deposits causing hardening of your leg arteries, this disease process causes a dangerous reduction in the blood flow to your legsā€”and possibly to your heart, brain, and other vital organs.

The slowing down of circulation in your leg's arterial system is what causes the pain you feel when something as simple as a brief walk around the block or climbing stairs at home. The buildup of plaque will cause the artery to narrow and stiffen, damaging your arteries' ability to deliver more blood to your legs when it's needed.

Unlike pain in the legs due to other sources such as arthritis, back issues, or nerve problems, claudication tends to be relatively constant day to day, though it worsens over time. Unlike later stages of PAD, it occurs only with exertion, not waking you from sleep or affecting you when you aren't moving. 

If you are experiencing pain while trying to enjoy your daily stroll, listen to your body and contact Dr. David Nabi today for a simple and painless screening. A quick visit can prevent devastating problems. It may even save your life!

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