Your circulatory system performs a never-ending, pivotal job: It delivers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to your body’s organs, tissues, and muscles. It also removes waste from your organs and cells so your body can get rid of it.
Peripheral artery disease, commonly known as PAD, is a type of vascular disease that develops when your arteries narrow due to the accumulation of cholesterol and plaque. This condition prevents your arteries from being able to transport the proper amount of blood to your arms, legs, and feet.
When PAD-related pain and discomfort extend to your feet, you can have trouble walking and performing normal activities. Unfortunately, when PAD is severe, amputation is sometimes required. PAD puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke as well, so getting it treated is critical.
The outstanding podiatry team at Premier Foot & Ankle treats a host of conditions, including PAD from their nine convenient Texas locations. Our providers know that foot health impacts your overall health and well-being. But treatment can’t come until you're diagnosed.
Here we talk about how your doctor determines if you have PAD, as well as describing its symptoms and care options.
What are the symptoms of PAD?
With PAD, you can suffer muscle cramps and pain in your hips and buttocks, legs, and calves, as well as your feet. Reduced blood flow causes this pain, which is called claudication. It tends to flare when you walk or climb stairs, and lessen when you’re at rest.
Aside from this main symptom, you may also experience:
- Leg fatigue
- Pale, bluish tinted, or shiny skin on your legs
- Loss of leg hair
- A feeling of coldness in your leg or legs
- Foot wounds that don’t heal well
- Slow toenail growth
- Erectile dysfunction in men, particularly those living with diabetes
- Fainter pulse detected in your feet
Many of these symptoms can also affect your arms or hands, depending on where PAD strikes.
One alarming consideration is that it’s possible to have serious blockages but feel no symptoms whatsoever, which often happens when your body grows blood vessels that end up surrounding the blockages.
How does my podiatrist diagnose PAD?
Those at higher risk for pad are people living with diabetes, people who struggle with obesity, African Americans, individuals with hypertension or high cholesterol, and past or current smokers. Those with a family history of PAD, or who have experienced a heart attack or stroke, are also at higher risk.
When your podiatrist suspects PAD, they use a noninvasive diagnostic device called PADnet®, which screens for chronic venous insufficiency.
Your provider assesses your vascular health by using blood pressure cuffs along with a computer that measures your blood pressure and determines your ankle-brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure taken at your ankle with that of your arm. If the number is low, it often means there’s leg artery narrowing or blockage present.
We also perform testing that reveals pulse volume recording (PVR) waveforms. This employs blood pressure cuffs and ultrasound to diagnose PAD by monitoring blood flow and again, identifying arterial blockages and narrowing.
These tests, as well as a thorough physical exam and conversation about your symptoms, allow your podiatrist to make a definitive diagnosis and start treating you for PAD. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, an artery widening procedure known as angioplasty, medications, and sometimes surgery.
Don’t put off seeking treatment if you have any PAD symptoms. We’re here to help. Schedule a consultation today by calling the Premier Foot & Ankle office most convenient to you, or request an appointment online.