Intermittent Claudication involves the arterial supply to the lower limbs, which have become hardened and narrowed. The demand for blood supply by the leg muscles during activity, such as walking, exceeds the capability of these diseased arteries to meet this supply.
As a consequence of this the muscles go into spasm or cramp and the pain produced normally inhibits movement. During rest the blood supply is allowed to catch up and as the pain subsides the sufferer will attempt to continue walking only to find some time later the whole process is repeated and they have to stop.
The severity of the condition is often indicated by how far or how long they can walk before the pain returns. This condition is often caused by smoking, but may result from repeated soft tissue injuries e.g. to the muscle of the calf. As these injuries heal, they produce scar tissue, which has less blood supply than normal muscle tissue.
Repeated injury replaces more and more muscle tissue with scar tissue leaving areas where the blood supply is chronically reduced. This is occasionally seen in footballers who receive physical injuries, such as kicks to their calves.
Treatment can involve the un-blocking of these arteries by Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty. This involves passing a catheter up inside the artery, with a balloon attached, which can be inflated at an exact point to stretch and widen the artery.
After the procedure the patients will normally be given heparin to stop any clotting problems and long term aspirin taken in low doses is often sufficient to prevent further clotting problems.
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