What is peripheral artery disease screening?
Siddarth Bhende, MD, is a vascular surgeon on staff at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
Question: I went to my physician with leg pain and he told me that I should be screened for peripheral artery disease. What is that, what will the screening show and how is this treated?
Answer: Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to the blockage of the leg arteries due to atherosclerotic plaque.
Often, people with PAD experience fatigue, heaviness or cramping in their calf, buttocks or thigh muscles while walking or climbing stairs. The pain usually resolves once the activity is stopped. This is a telltale sign that something is affecting the blood flow in your legs.
Other symptoms outlined by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) include:
- Pain in the legs and/or feet that disturbs sleep.
- Sores or wounds on toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly or not at all.
- A lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg.
- Poor nail growth and decreased hair growth on toes and legs.
According to medical experts, people with PAD are up to seven times at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, and yet, often they dismiss the above symptoms as part of the normal aging process. They are not to be ignored and your physician is wise to recommend screening.
Early detection can lead to effective treatment that can keep you strong and healthy.
Other risk factors for PAD include being over age 50, smoking or history of smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a personal history of vascular disease, heart attack or stroke or if you are African American.
If screening shows that you do indeed have PAD, your physician will recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet, smoking cessation, weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure and/or glucose levels.
The NHLIB notes that PAD affects eight to 12 million people in the United States. Not everyone has symptoms such as you have, so for anyone with risk factors, screening is essential. For more information about PAD visit www.nhlbi.gov.