Millions of people over the age of 40 in the United States live with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which arteries have become narrowed or blocked, leading to reduced blood flow to the limbs. Fortunately, doctors can use different tests and techniques to accurately diagnose PAD so that patients can get proper treatment.
Signs You May Have PAD
Not everyone has symptoms of PAD, which is one reason why regular visits to a primary care doctor are important for your overall health. Primary care physicians can help you catch health conditions that have minor or no symptoms. Many people do experience PAD symptoms, however. Here are some signs you may have PAD:
- Leg pain or achiness
- Leg numbness
- A feeling of heaviness, especially while walking or while climbing stairs
- Slow-healing, or non-healing, wounds in the legs, feet, or toes
- A weak pulse in the legs or feet
- Skin changes in texture or color
- Slow toenail growth
- Slow growth of the hair on the legs
- Erectile dysfunction, in men.
Most PAD occurs in the legs, but it can occur in the arms as well. If you have any of the above symptoms in the legs or arms, contact a doctor so that you can get a proper diagnosis and avoid dangerous health complications, like heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attack, or limb amputation.
Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease
In order to diagnose peripheral artery disease your doctor will do an exam and run some tests.
Your primary care doctor or other healthcare provider may find signs of PAD during a regular physical exam. During a physical exam, a doctor may detect symptoms that may indicate PAD, such as:
- a weakened pulse or decreased blood pressure below an artery that has narrowed
- Through a stethoscope, hearing whooshing sounds around an artery
- Visible signs of poor wound healing or skin changes
At an initial exam, either with a PAD specialist or with another doctor who suspects PAD, you may answer questions about your own health history, symptoms, and lifestyle that can help the doctor make a diagnosis.
Even without symptoms, if you are at increased risk, your doctor may want to screen you for PAD. This may apply to people who have a family history of PAD or other artery disease, or who have risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), a history of smoking, or who are older than 65 years of age.
Your doctor may want to take blood samples in order to check for other health conditions, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or kidney disease, as the risk of PAD is elevated with these conditions. Diagnosing and managing these health conditions can help in the treatment of PAD.
Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
An ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a common test for PAD that looks at blood pressure in the ankle and com
pares to the blood pressure in the arm.
The doctor will use a regular blood pressure cuff, along with an ultrasound device, to evaluate blood pressure and flow, and detect problems that can point to PAD. An ankle-brachial index test only takes about 10 minutes.
If the ABI exam shows an ABI ratio of .9 or less, this is considered a sign of PAD. An ABI ratio between .4 and .7 may be considered moderate PAD, while less than .4 is considered severe. An ABI ratio of more than 1.3 could mean that your arteries are very stiff, which could be due to older age or a health condition like diabetes. If that is the case, your arteries may or may not be blocked, so your doctor may want to do additional tests to evaluate for PAD.
Ultrasound Imaging Techniques
A vascular ultrasound exam will use sound waves that create pictures of your arteries. This can be used to locate blockages in the arteries. Doppler ultrasound imaging is used to look at blood flow through the arteries, finding areas where blood flow may be reduced or restricted.
In angiography, dye is injected into the blood vessels to allow the doctor to view blood flow through your arteries in real time. This allows the doctor to follow the flow of the dye (using other imaging techniques, such as computerized tomography (CT) angiography, magnetic resonance angiography, or X-rays.
Treatment Options for PAD
At Beach Wellness MD, we offer several minimally-invasive procedures that can be very effective for the treatment of peripheral artery disease.
In a balloon angioplasty procedure, narrowed or blocked arteries are opened by placing a tiny needle into the artery. A flexible catheter is inserted and guided by x-ray fluoroscopy. Then a tiny balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated in order to reopen the affected artery and enhance blood flow.
Atherectomy is a treatment that allows removal of blockages from the artery using laser energy or a variety of mechanical techniques.
Stenting is used to hold open a weakened artery. A stent is a tiny wire mesh tube that is placed to reinforce vessel walls that were previously blocked or significantly narrowed.
These PAD procedures offered at Beach Wellness MD are minimally-invasive, requiring only a few hours of observation before you can safely go home.
Consult a Trusted PAD Specialist!
If you have symptoms of peripheral artery disease or have been diagnosed, talk to a trusted PAD specialist. Prompt treatment can help keep the condition under control and prevent further complications.
Our goal at Beach Wellness MD is to help our patients restore health and improve their quality of life. Dr. Ali Golshan, MD, is a leading vascular expert who specializes in PAD and other vascular conditions. Dr. Golshan emphasizes one-on-one treatment and designs personalized care plans for each patient.
Contact us online or call us at (310) 620-1851 today to schedule your appointment.