What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a vascular disease where there is a blockage or narrowing of blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the lower extremities (legs, feet, ankles). This may cause weakness, numbness or pain in the feet or legs, loss of hair on the legs, toenail growth issues, cramps in the legs while walking, slow healing wounds on the feet or legs, or a bluish tint to the skin of the feet or calves. 

How Do You Test For PAD?

If your podiatrist believes you may have PAD or some other circulation disorder, they may want to do a vascular analysis in order to diagnose your condition properly. A vascular analysis is a non-invasive test that checks the amount of blood that is flowing through your arteries and veins. 

An Ankle Brachial Index (ABI test) will compare the blood pressure in your arm with that of the blood pressure in your ankle. For a healthy person without PAD, the blood pressure in their arm will be lower than what it is in their ankle while the heart is in its pumping (systolic) phase.

How Does the ABI Test Work?

The ABI test is non-invasive and painless. You will lie down on your back and rest for 10 minutes. Using a simple blood pressure cuff and Doppler instrument, your blood pressure will be measured and recorded at your upper arm, and then at your ankle. The number indicating blood pressure at your ankle will then be divided by the number indicating blood pressure in your arm. The ankle’s blood pressure is then divided by the arm’s blood pressure. 

How Will I Know If I Have PAD? 

A normal ABI ratio is considered to be between 1.0 - 1.4. If the ABI ratio is 0.9 or less, this usually indicates that the patient has PAD. More moderate PAD is typically indicated within the 0.4 - 0.7 range, while more severe PAD may fall below 0.4.

Any symptoms discussed here should prompt a visit to the podiatrist for an examination and possibly an ABI test to check you for PAD. This is especially important if you are a smoker or a diabetic over the age of 50, or are 70 years or older.