There’s a relatively simple test that a health care professional can do to help you determine if you have peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD. The results of this basic exam can go a long way toward helping a health care professional identify your level of risk and decide if you might need treatment.
All that’s required is a blood pressure measurement comparing the pressure above your ankle to the pressure in your arm. Sometimes, it’s done in combination with an exercise test. This noninvasive test determines your ankle-brachial index (ABI), which is an excellent indicator of PAD stage (severity). If your blood pressure is lower in your ankle than in your arm, you could have PAD.23 When requesting this test, insist that your doctor get your ABI and not just an ankle pulse alone.
PAD – often referred to as “poor circulation” – is the result of narrowed arteries caused by hardened plaque in the legs. It is a potentially life threatening disease where plaque, like calcium, builds up along blood vessel walls, narrowing the arteries and reducing blood flow to the legs and feet. The symptoms can include heavy, aching legs, numbness, burning sensations and pain while walking. Left untreated, PAD can lead to amputation.
Groups of physicians who regularly treat patients with PAD have said that ABI tests should be performed regularly for people who are at least 50 years old with a history of smoking and for all people over 70.29
Getting an ABI test is a good place to start if you’re concerned you might have PAD. Ask a health care professional if you should have the test. Early detection and treatment could help save your feet or legs from amputation or even prolong your life. A combination of improved diet, exercise and medication are often the first steps in treating PAD. If those methods aren’t enough, there are other options that a PAD specialist could suggest.
Millions of Americans are living with PAD. But few who have the disease know their options or even realize what PAD is.7 So don’t wait. Discuss your symptoms with a health care professional and take control of your health today.
Learn more about PAD by downloading and completing our PAD checklist. Then take it with you to help guide the conversation with a health care professional about your risk of PAD. And remember to ask if you should have an ABI test. If you don’t have a PAD specialist, our Find a Doctor tool can help you locate one.