Do You Know What Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Is?

  Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition in which the large and medium-sized arteries supplying blood to the legs become narrow or clogged with plaque, constricting the flow of blood. PAD (also known as peripheral arterial disease) is atherosclerosis (more commonly known as hardening of the arteries) occurring in the limbs. PAD may be an indication that atherosclerosis is also present in other areas of the body.

PAD reduces blood flow to the feet and legs and can cause pain in the feet and legs, as well as lead to tissue death (gangrene). People with diabetes and a history of smoking are most at risk of developing PAD because circulation is reduced by diabetes and smoking. If this describes you or a member that you care for, you could benefit from a peripheral artery disease test.

Warning Signs to Consider Peripheral Arterial Disease Screening

The most common symptom of PAD is pain in the feet and legs while walking but feels better after resting. Up to 40% of people with PAD will not experience symptoms, but these are the warning signs:

  • Pain in the legs that is relieved by resting
  • Smooth, shiny skin on the lower legs and feet
  • Skin that is cool to the touch
  • Wounds on the feet and legs that don’t heal, or that heal very slowly
  • Constant leg pain, tingling, burning, or loss of all sensation

PAD Test Details

A simple, quick and non-invasive procedure, the PAD test only requires removing the socks and shoes. Blood pressure cuffs are placed around the upper arms and ankles. A small ultrasound device then measures the systolic blood pressure in your limbs. Comparing the blood pressure in your arms to the blood pressure in your legs develops a calculation called the ankle-brachial index (ABI).

The ankle-brachial index will indicate to the technician if you are at risk for developing PAD, and if follow-up with your doctor is needed. After a board-certified physician reviews your PAD screening results , they will be mailed to you and the ABI of each individual leg will be noted. An ABI of 1.0 to 1.3 is in the normal range. If your results are in the abnormal range (which could be either higher or lower than normal), your results letter will indicate if you should follow up with your physician. Whatever your results on any of your screenings, you should always share your screening results with your personal physician.