Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Test
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. Peripheral artery disease (also known as peripheral arterial disease) is atherosclerosis (more commonly known as hardening of the arteries) occurring in the limbs. Peripheral artery disease 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 peripheral artery disease because circulation is reduced by diabetes and smoking. If this describes you, you could benefit from a peripheral artery disease test.
About Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease affects about 8.5 million in the U.S., including 12-20% of people over the age of 601. African Americans and people of Hispanic descent have an increased risk of developing peripheral artery disease. 40% of people with undiagnosed PAD will not experience any symptoms1, so preventive screening among people with risk factors is critical. In its most serious form, PAD can lead to death of tissue in the feet (gangrene), requiring amputation of the limb. An ABI vascular test on your legs and arms can help determine your risk for this disease.
The risk of developing PAD increases for both men and women as they age. Treating and managing any existing medical conditions, primarily diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, can help reduce the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. The most important action you can take to mitigate the risk of developing PAD or any vascular disease is to quit smoking. Adults diagnosed with peripheral artery disease are at higher risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. That's one reason a simple, non-invasive PAD test is so valuable.
PAD Test Details
A simple, quick and non-invasive procedure, the peripheral artery disease test only requires removing the socks and shoes. Blood pressure cuffs are placed around the upper arms and the ankles. A small ultrasound device will then measure 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 your peripheral artery disease test results are reviewed by a board-certified physician, 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.
Warning Signs to Consider Peripheral Arterial Disease Screening
The most common symptom of PAD is pain in the feet and legs while walking that 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
Risk Factors for Peripheral Artery Disease
- Family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke
- Tobacco usage, past or present
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Who is the Peripheral Artery Disease test for?
Adults who are the most at risk for developing peripheral artery disease include those with risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (see the list of risk factors at right). People who experience pain or numbness in their legs and feet while walking, have shiny skin on their feet, or sores that won’t heal should also be screened via a peripheral artery disease test.
1Centers for Disease Control, cdc.gov