Health Guide

Intermittent claudication

What is it?

Intermittent claudication (klaw-di-KA-shun) is pain of your hip or leg, especially while walking. This pain usually goes away with rest.


Intermittent claudication is caused by poor circulation. There are many things that can affect your circulation. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries from fatty deposits) is one of the most common causes of intermittent claudication. Smoking can worsen circulation and also worsen intermittent claudication symptoms. Some medicines can worsen circulation, including birth control pills. Smoking and using the birth control pill together will increase the chances of causing circulation problems.

Signs and Symptoms:

A pain or ache in your leg muscles after walking a certain distance is common with intermittent claudication. If only one extremity is involved, it will be cooler to the touch and have a different color than the extremity with good circulation. The pulses may be weak and hard to find in the affected extremity. Because of poor circulation, wounds take longer to heal. Infections are more common if you have intermittent claudication. If untreated, intermittent claudication can get worse and cause gangrene. If a clot forms, intermittent claudication can very quickly become an emergency.

Wellness Recommendations:

  • Do not smoke. Stopping smoking may decrease signs and symptoms of intermittent claudication or keep them from getting worse.
  • Exercise 3 to 4 times a week for at least 30 minutes a time.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Learn to relax by deep breathing, meditating, or doing other activities when you are under stress.
  • If you have diabetes, try to keep your blood sugar at a steady level. Check your blood sugar often. Ask caregivers if you should make changes to your diet, exercise, or medicine.

Medical Care:

Your caregiver will examine you and compare the blood pressure in the affected limb with that of the unaffected limb. A test called a NIVA (non invasive vascular angiogram) or an angiogram may be done to learn about the blockage. You may need medicine or surgery to treat intermittent claudication.

Dietary Measures:

  • Eat a healthy, low fat diet to include fish, fruit, and vegetables. Include more fiber in food that you eat. Fiber can be found in cereals, whole grain breads, and beans.
  • Do not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.




      • Biofeedback may be helpful with intermittent claudication.

      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat intermittent claudication.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.

      Seek Care Immediately If: You have the following symptoms which may mean that you have a blood clot in your leg, arm, or chest:

      • Sudden pain, tenderness, swelling and color changes of your leg or arm.
      • Shortness of breath and chest pain.

      You have signs of a heart attack:

      • Chest pain or discomfort that spreads to your arms, jaw, or back.
      • Unusual, sudden back pain.
      • Nausea (sick to your stomach).
      • Trouble breathing.
      • Sweating.
      • Lips or nailbeds that turn blue or white in color.
      • This is an emergency. Call 911 or 0 (operator) for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital or clinic. Do not drive yourself!

      You have one or more of these signs of symptoms of a stroke . These signs and symptoms will happen suddenly.

      • A very bad headache. This may feel like the worst headache of your life.
      • Too dizzy to stand.
      • Weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face. This may happen on only one side of your body.
      • Confusion and problems speaking or understanding things.
      • Not able to see out of one or both of your eyes.

      This is an emergency. Call 911 or 0 (operator) for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. Do not drive yourself!

      Care agreement: You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


      1. Aikens JE: Thermal biofeedback for claudication in diabetes: a literature review and case study. Altern Med Rev; 1999; 4(2):104-110.

      2. Brevetti G, Chiariello M, Ferulano G et al: Increases in walking distance in patients with peripheral vascular disease treated with L-carnitine: a double-blind, cross-over study. Circulation 1988; 77(4):767-773.

      3. Cahan MA, Montgomery P, Otis RB et al: The effect of cigarette smoking status on six-minute walk distance in patients with intermittent claudication. Angiology 1999; 50(7):537-546.

      4. Hanson M, Bergentz SE, Ericsson BF et al: The oral glucose tolerance test in men under 55 years of age with intermittent claudication. Angiology 1987; 38(6):469-473.

      5. O'Hara JO, Jolly PN & Nicol CG: The therapeutic efficacy of inositol nicotinate (Hexopal(R)) in intermittent claudication: a controlled trial. Br J Clin Pract 1988; 42(9):377-383.

      6. Piesse JW: Vitamin E and peripheral vascular disease. Int Clin Nutr Rev 1984; 4(4):178-182.

      7. Pittler M & Ernst E: Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of intermittent claudication: A meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Med 2000; 108:276-281.

      8. Sicuteri F, Fanciullacci M, Franchi G et al: Taurine as a therapeutic agent in vascular pain. Clin Med 1970; 77:21-32.

      9. Signorelli SS, Di Pino L, Costa MP et al: Efficacy of L-propionyl-carnitine in the treatment of chronic critical limb ischemia. Clin Drug Invest 2001; 21(8):555-561.

      10. Whyman MR & Ruckley CV: Should claudicants receive angioplasty or just exercise training? Cardiovasc Surg 1998; 6(3):226-231.

      Last Updated: 6/4/2018
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