PAINFUL LEG CRAMPS

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PERIPHERAL ARTERIAL DISEASE (PAD)

What is Claudication (Painful Leg Cramps)?

Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs.

When you develop peripheral artery disease (PAD), your extremities — usually your legs — don't receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (claudication).

Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs.

You often can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising and eating a healthy diet.

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What are the Symptoms?

While many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms, some people have leg pain when walking (claudication).

Claudication symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that's triggered by activity, such as walking, but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common location.

The severity of claudication varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe claudication can make it hard for you to walk or do other types of physical activity.

Peripheral artery disease signs and symptoms include:

  • Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs (claudication)
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
  • Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won't heal
  • A change in the color of your legs
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
  • Slower growth of your toenails
  • Shiny skin on your legs
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

If peripheral artery disease progresses, pain may even occur when you're at rest or when you're lying down (ischemic rest pain). It may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Hanging your legs over the edge of your bed or walking around your room may temporarily relieve the pain.

When to see a doctor?

If you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms, don't dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Call your doctor and make an appointment.

Even if you don't have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, you may need to be screened if you are:

  • Over age 65
  • Over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
  • Under age 50, but have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure

Does claudication cause leg cramps?

Claudication is a medical condition characterized by cramping or pain in the legs that occurs during exercise or physical activity and is caused by a lack of blood flow to the muscles. While leg cramps can be a symptom of claudication, there are other causes of leg cramps as well, such as muscle fatigue, dehydration, and certain medical conditions. It's important to consult with a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What does claudication in legs feel like?

Claudication in the legs typically causes a cramping or aching pain in the muscles of the legs, typically in the calf, thigh or hip. This pain usually occurs during physical activity, such as walking or climbing stairs, and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may also be accompanied by fatigue, weakness, or numbness in the affected leg. In some cases, the pain may be present at rest and can be accompanied by a heavy feeling in the legs, or a sense of tightness or fullness. It's important to note that claudication symptoms can be similar to other conditions and it's best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Is claudication the same as cramp?

No, claudication and cramp are not the same thing. Claudication is a medical condition characterized by cramping or pain in the legs that occurs during exercise or physical activity and is caused by a lack of blood flow to the muscles, typically caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD). Cramp, on the other hand, is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction that can cause pain and stiffness. Cramps can occur in any muscle and can be caused by a variety of factors such as muscle fatigue, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and certain medical conditions. It's important to consult with a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Why is claudication so painful?

Claudication is so painful because it is caused by a lack of blood flow to the muscles. When the muscles don't receive enough oxygen and nutrients, they become fatigued and start to ache and cramp. This can lead to muscle damage and inflammation, which can cause pain. Additionally, when the muscles don't receive enough blood, the build-up of waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide can cause pain and discomfort. Furthermore, the nerve fibers in the affected area may also be involved, further increasing the pain. The severity of the pain depends on how severe the blood flow restriction is, how long it lasts and how much muscle tissue is affected.

Who are at risks?

  • Diabetic
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Smokers or history of smoking
  • Age above 50
  • History of heart disease
  • History of kidney failure
  • History of stroke
  • History of non healing ulcers
  • History of neuropathy
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