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P.A.D Frequently Asked Questions

How common is P.A.D.?

Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases, affecting 8 - 12 million Americans. The disease affects both men and women and is more common in individuals with diabetes and those who have a history of past or current smoking.

I currently have no symptoms of P.A.D., but I have several of the risk factors listed. Should I still be screened?

A: Many people with progressing P.A.D. have no symptoms at all, so it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors. A P.A.D. diagnosis can be done by asking a few simple questions, performing a simple exam and if required, doing a quick and easy test.

Does P.A.D. affect some ethnic groups more than others?

Yes. Although P.A.D. can affect anyone - men and women, young and old - it is more common in individuals of African American decent, who are at approximately a two-fold increased risk for P.A.D. that is not explained by other risk factors.

What causes a blocked artery in the leg?

P.A.D. can be caused by a large number of diseases that can either block or expand the arteries outside the heart. Most commonly, P.A.D. is caused when the arteries to the legs become more narrowed or clogged with cholesterol deposits, or plaque (pronounced "plak").

I have a history of Coronary Artery Disease. Will my doctor test me for P.A.D.?

A: Although your doctor is continually monitoring your health, you may need to request that your doctor do an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) screening test. ABI screening is a simple blood pressure calculation. It is painless, takes no more than 15 minutes and can identify the presence of asymptomatic P.A.D.

What is claudication?

Claudication, derived from the Latin word for "to limp," is the medical term for a specific discomfort in the leg muscles that occurs with exercise. Any leg muscle can be affected by claudication, but the buttocks, thighs and calves are the most common locations of this discomfort.

What is an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test?

The ankle-brachial index, or simply ABI, test is performed by a doctor, nurse, or trained ultrasound technician (sonographer) who places a standard blood pressure cuff on both upper arms and also on both legs just above the ankles. The systolic blood pressure is then recorded at each of the four sites. These blood pressure values are used to calculate the ABI using the following formula: ABI = BP in ankle / BP in arm

After my ABI, my doctor told me that I needed a diagnostic ultrasound to determine the severity of my P.A.D.. Should I wait until I have leg pain?

A: Your doctor is in the best position to advise you of your diagnosis and treatment options. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent any complications associated with the progression of P.A.D. A common risk associated with untreated P.A.D. is Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI). Patients who wait until their P.A.D. progresses are at risk of developing CLI, which can lead to severe pain and even amputation.

Am I at risk of heart attack if I have P.A.D.?

Yes. Individuals with P.A.D., when caused by atherosclerosis, face as high-or-higher a risk of heart attack as an individual with known heart artery blockages who has survived a first heart attack. Because the same risk factors that cause blockages in leg arteries, it is wise to assume that the risk is high and to start treatments to lower risk right away.

Am I at risk of stroke if I have P.A.D.?

Yes. Individuals with P.A.D., when caused by atherosclerosis, face as high-or-higher a risk of stroke as individuals with known blockages in the carotid arteries or individuals who have survived a stroke. Because the same risk factors that cause blockages in the leg arteries are likely to create plaque (blockages) in carotid or brain arteries, it is wise to assume that the risk is high.

What can I do to make my doctor's visit as productive as possible?

Before visiting your primary doctor or vascular specialist, you should try to remember the important details of your symptoms. Note when your leg symptoms first began. If your symptoms have changed since then, write down the date this change occurred. Note which leg is most bothersome. Do your symptoms limit your lifestyle? If you were better at the time your symptoms began, what activities would you then try to do that are difficult now? Regaining the ability to do the activities you "lost" can motivate both you and your physician.