Intermittent claudication is a symptom of peripheral arterial disease. Intermittent claudication is a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in the calf, foot, thigh, or buttock that occurs during exercise, such as walking up a steep hill or a flight of stairs. This pain usually occurs after the same amount of exercise and is usually relieved by rest.
Many people who have peripheral arterial disease do not have any symptoms. But if you do have symptoms, you may have intermittent claudication.
People with intermittent claudication usually describe the pain as a deep aching that gradually gets worse until they rest. Sometimes, the leg may also cramp or feel weak.
Your speed and whether you are walking uphill or downhill are all things that affect how far you can walk before you feel pain. If peripheral arterial disease gets worse and you have more limited blood flow, the pain can appear earlier and earlier. It will likely be harder to walk long distances.
Pain at rest, without exercise, means that arterial blockage is advanced. If effective treatment is not started, tissue death can happen. You may have cold, tingly, weak, or numb feet or toes. You may notice sores that are slow to heal. The skin on your legs or feet might change color. It may be pale, bluish, or purplish. Your skin may look shiny or have blisters.
Other problems that can cause leg pain
Many problems can cause leg pain that is similar to intermittent claudication but is not related to peripheral arterial disease. These problems include:
- Spinal stenosis.
- Stress fractures.
- Nerve damage in the legs (peripheral neuropathy) caused by diabetes or heavy use of alcohol.
- A pulled muscle.
Other conditions can also cut off blood flow to the leg and cause leg pain. But these are conditions that can happen suddenly. They include:
- A blood clot (embolism) in the leg.
- Swelling of muscle tissue that cuts off blood flow (compartment syndrome).