When Things Stop Circulating

What goes around comes around. And around and around and around…

The four chambers of your heart pump approximately 2000 gallons of blood through your heart and around your body each day. Your life depends on this blood circulating properly. But when your circulatory system isn’t functioning fully, you may end up with intermittent claudication.

Intermittent claudication is a condition in which leg muscles become blood deprived during movement and exercise. This manifests as cramping, weakness, numbness, tingling, or pain in the legs and feet. Pain and weakness will be temporary until the legs are rested but will return immediately upon resuming activity. Long-term intermittent claudication can cause shiny or blotchy skin, hair loss on the legs, and perpetually cold feet.

Intermittent claudication is a symptom of a more serious condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries in your legs have become blocked by plaque buildup. Because this happens over time, intermittent claudication mostly affects adults over 50 years old. Certain risk factors—including obesity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease—can increase your chances of developing intermittent claudication.

Your podiatrist can diagnose intermittent claudication by comparing the blood pressure in your ankles to each other and to the blood pressure of your arm. A radically reduced blood pressure in one or both legs can indicate an issue. In some cases, the pulse may be absent in one leg if there is a total blockage. Ultrasounds, MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), and other scans can also give doctors a fuller picture of the underlying atherosclerosis and any blockages.

Intermittent claudication can be controlled with lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, losing weight eating healthier, and walking for exercise. Associated conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes all need to be well controlled. Your physician may prescribe medications to reduce clots and help improve blood flow. Complete blockages may require surgical intervention.

While intermittent claudication itself is not life or limb threatening, it can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life. If you’ve been experiencing weakness, tingling, or pain in your legs with simple activity, call the FAAWC today. The sooner you call, the sooner you’ll be on your way to better health.

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