People with PAD are at higher risk for stroke and heart attack.
Weather you see a family physician, internist, physician assistant or nurse practitioner, the first step is to ask about your risk for PAD. Your provider will take a medical history, perform a physical exam and conduct diagnostic tests.
How can Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) affect you?
PAD occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This buildup is called plaque which narrows your arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood to your legs most commonly. PAD often goes undiagnosed, so it is important to ask your healthcare provider about your risks. Plaque buildup in the legs does not always cause symptoms, so many people can have PAD and not know it.
Things you should know
Timely detection and treatment of PAD can
- Improve the quality of your life
- Help you keep your independence and mobility
- Reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, leg ulcer and amputation and even death.
Most people with PAD do not experience symptoms.
During the physical exam, your health care provider may check:
- Pulses in your legs and feet to determine if there is enough blood flowing to these areas.
- The color, temperature and appearance of your legs and feet.
- Signs of poor wound healing on the legs and feet.
When checking you for PAD, your health care provider may perform a single noninvasive test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). Painless and easy, the ABI compares, the blood pressure readings in you ankles with the blood readings in your arms.
An ABI can help determine whether you have PAD, but it cannot identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked. Your health care provider may decide to do a Doppler ultrasound test to see whether a specific artery is open or blocked. This test uses sound waves to measure the blood flow in the veins and arteries in your arms and legs.
How is PAD Treated?
The overall goals for treating PAD are to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, mobility and prevent heart attack, stroke, leg ulcer and amputation. There are three main approaches to treating PAD, making lifestyle changes, taking medication, and in some cases having an endovascular procedure or surgery. Your health care provider will determine the best treatment options for you based on your medical history.
Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider
- Does my medical history raise my risk for PAD?
- Which screening tests or exams are right for me?
- What is my blood sugar level? If it’s too high or if I have diabetes, what should I do about it?
- What is my blood pressure? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What are my cholesterol numbers?(these include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides-a type of fat found in the blood and food) Do I need to do anything about them?
- What can I do to quit smoking?
- If I have PAD, what steps should I take to treat it?
- Will PAD increase my risk for other conditions?
- What non-invasive types of procedures are available to treat PAD?