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Diseases That Cause Calf Muscle Pain

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
Diseases That Cause Calf Muscle Pain
A calf muscle cramp typically causes abrupt, intense pain.

There are many diseases that can cause calf muscle pain. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, leg pain, including calf pain, is a common symptom and complaint, and it can be caused by numerous factors, including dehydration, medications, traumatic injury, fractures and certain medical conditions. Calf muscle pain can range from mild to severe, and it can signal a serious underlying medical condition.

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Intermittent Claudication

Intermittent claudication is a disease that can cause calf muscle pain. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, intermittent claudication is a crampy leg or calf pain that occurs during physical exertion or exercise and then disappears with rest, and the pain is caused by a reduction in arterial blood flow—due to blockage of the arteries—to the lower extremity. The UMMC states that intermittent claudication is associated with peripheral artery disease, or PAD, and that about one in three people with PAD experience intermittent claudication. Common symptoms associated with intermittent claudication include the following: pain, achiness, fatigue or nonspecific discomfort in the calf muscles during exercise. According to the UMMC, the popliteal artery—located behind the knee—is the most commonly affected artery, and intermittent claudication symptoms, therefore, are most common in the calf muscles.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a disease that can cause calf muscle pain. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute—a division of the National Institutes of Health—states that deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in one of the body's deeper veins, and that blood clots form when blood thickens and red blood cells clump together. According to the NHLBI, the majority of deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh, although they can occur in other locations throughout a person's body too. The NIH states that blood clots can block or occlude blood flow to the calf muscles and cause swelling and pain in the lower leg and that risk factors for DVT and blood clot formation include the following: catheter insertion in the groin; bed rest; tobacco consumption; pelvis or leg fractures; giving birth within the past six months; heart failure; certain medications; obesity; recent surgery; and certain medical conditions, such as polycythemia vera, in which a person's blood becomes too thick and slow.


Cellulitis is a disease that can cause calf muscle pain. According to the Mayo Clinic website, cellulitis is a common and sometimes serious bacterial skin infection characterized by diffuse inflammation of a person's connective tissue. Cellulitis manifests as a swollen, red patch of skin that's warm and tender to the touch, and it can spread rapidly if left unchecked. The Mayo Clinic website states that skin on the lower legs—especially the calf—is one of the most common locations for infection, although cellulitis can occur anywhere on a person's body, including the face, and that cellulitis can affect tissues of varying depth, such as the skin or the tissues underlying the skin. Without medical intervention, cellulitis can spread to a person's lymph nodes and bloodstream, which can be a potentially life-threatening situation. According to the Mayo Clinic website, some of the most common causes of cellulitis include streptococcus and staphylococcus infection following surgery, puncture wounds, or certain types of insect or spider bites.

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