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Blockage of leg arteries

Overview Treatment
Alternative Names:
Intermittent claudication; Vaso-occlusive disease of the legs; Arterial insufficiency of the legs; Recurrent leg pain; Recurrent leg cramping; Calf pain with exercise
Home Care:

Talk to your doctor about the cause of your leg cramping and about what to do at home to relieve it. A healthy diet is important to decrease progression of atherosclerosis.

A program of daily walking for short periods, and stopping for pain or cramping, may help improve function. It is essential to stop smoking.

Avoid applications of hot or cold items on legs. Avoid tight shoes.

Call your health care provider if:

There are many other causes of leg pain such as arthritis or low blood potassium. However, some causes of leg pain may be life threatening such a blood clot in the legs. Seek medical attention if you have:

  • Leg pain that does not go away.
  • Legs that may be red, hot or swollen.
  • Any chest pain or shortness of breath accompanying leg pain.
  • Diabetes.
  • If you are pregnant.
What to expect at your health care provider's office:
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting claudication in detail may include:
  • Time pattern
    • Do you have leg cramps at night (nocturnal cramps)?
    • How often does leg pain with cramping occur?
    • Is it getting worse?
  • Quality
    • Is the pain sharp?
    • Is there an aching pain with the cramps?
  • Aggravating factors
    • Is it worse after you exercise?
    • Is it worse after you are standing?
    • Do you smoke? How much?
    • Do you drink alcohol? How much?
    • Are you diabetic? How well is your blood sugar controlled?
  • Other
    • What other symptoms are also present?
    • Has there been impotence (men)?
    • Is there pain in the back?
    • Is there a darkening of the skin of the legs, feet, or toes?
    • Is there weakness or paralysis of the legs?
The physical examination may include evaluation of the femoral pulse (in the groin) and the other areas where the pulse can be felt in the legs.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include: Intervention:
Surgical or angioplastic treatment may be recommended if claudication interferes with the patient's essential activities or work, and if the diseased arteries appear likely to improve after corrective treatment.

After seeing your health care provider:
If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to cramping leg pain, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.
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