Encyclopedia Home / B / Blockage of leg arteries

Blockage of leg arteries

  • Alternative Names

    Peripheral artery disease; Claudication; Intermittent claudication; Vaso-occlusive disease of the legs; Arterial insufficiency of the legs; Recurrent leg pain and 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 keep atherosclerosis from getting worse.

    A program of daily walking for short periods, and stopping for pain or cramping, may help improve function. You MUST stop smoking.

    Avoid placing hot or cold items on legs. Avoid tight shoes.

    Have your doctor check any non-healing wounds on the lower legs and feet.

    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 are red, hot or swollen
    • Chest pain or shortness of breath with leg pain
    • Diabetes
    • If you are pregnant

    What to expect at your health care provider's office

    Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your cramping leg pain and other symptoms, such as:

    • Do you have leg cramps at night?
    • How often does leg pain with cramping occur?
    • Is it getting worse?
    • Is the pain sharp?
    • Is there an aching pain with the cramps?
    • 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?
    • 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 provider may check the pulse in the groin and other areas where the pulse can be felt in the legs.

    The following tests may be performed:

    • Blood pressure measured in arms and legs for comparison
    • Doppler ultrasonography on the legs and the heart
    • Duplex Doppler/ultrasound exam of extremity  to see how blood flows through arteries
    • ECG  to check the activity of your heart
    • Aortography  to see blockages in your large arteries


    Surgery or angioplasty may be recommended if claudication interferes with the patient's activities or work, and if the diseased arteries are likely to improve after corrective treatment.