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Intermittent claudication: symptoms and cause

Your legs hurt – again and again? This can be caused by a circulatory disorder, which is also known as shop window disease. It is better not to ignore the signs.

Walking hurts your legs so much that you have to take frequent breaks, just like window shopping. If this is the case, there may be peripheral arterial disease (PAOD) behind it. It is a circulatory disorder in the legs, colloquially also called claudication or – because smokers are particularly affected – smoker’s leg.

Numbness and poorly healing wounds

According to the German Association for Vascular Surgery and Vascular Medicine (DGG), early signs should be taken seriously and clarified immediately. Because if the disease progresses far, there is no way to complex vascular interventions.

The most common sign is muscle pain that occurs when you walk for a long time or climb stairs – in calves, thighs, but also in the buttocks. Numbness and weakness in the legs also indicate PAOD. According to the DGG, cold, pale feet and poorly healing wounds are further signs.

The general practitioner can use an ultrasound measurement of the arteries to determine if PAOD is really behind the symptoms. The good news: Especially in the early stages, the disease can still be treated well – with, for example, medication.

How does peripheral arterial disease occur?

The circulatory disorder, which usually occurs in the legs, but can also affect the arms, is in most cases caused by hardening of the blood vessels (arteriosclerosis). The vessels narrow due to deposits of calcium, fat and proteins. The blood flow decreases or even stops completely in the case of a vascular occlusion. The muscles of the legs (or arms) therefore receive less and less oxygen and lose their efficiency.

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Without treatment, PAD progresses. The disease cannot be cured, but the course can be slowed down. First of all, a healthy lifestyle helps: don’t smoke, eat healthy and exercise a lot. Blood pressure, blood fat and blood sugar levels should also be within healthy limits or treated accordingly if they are not. It can also slow down progress.

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