Peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease
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Diagnose & Treatment of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

How is PAD Diagnosed?

Whether 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 and family history, perform a physical exam, and conduct diagnostic tests.

Physical Exam
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.

Diagnostic Tests
When checking you for PAD, your health care provider may perform a simple non-invasive test called an
ankle-brachial index (ABI). Painless and easy, the ABI compares the blood pressure readings in your ankles
with the blood pressure 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 and mobility, and prevent heart attack, stroke, 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 Health Care Provider:

  1. Does my medical history raise my risk for PAD?
  2. Which screening tests or exams are right for me?
  3. What is my blood sugar level? If it’s too high or if I have diabetes, what should I do about it?
  4. What is my blood pressure? Do I need to do anything about it?
  5. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides—a type of fat found in the blood
  6. and food.) Do I need to do anything about them?
  7. What can I do to quit smoking?
  8. If I have PAD, what steps should I take to treat it?
  9. Will PAD increase my risk for other conditions?
  10. What non-invasive type of procedures are available to treat PAD?