Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs - Topic Overview
How is PAD diagnosed?
Your doctor will talk with you about your
symptoms and past health and will do a physical exam. During the exam, your
doctor will check your pulse at your groin, behind your knee, on the inner
ankle, and on the top of your foot. Your pulse shows the strength of blood
flow. An absent or weak pulse in these spots is a sign of PAD. Your doctor may
also look at the color of your foot when it is higher than the level of your
heart and after exercise. The color of your foot can be a clue to whether
enough blood is getting through your arteries.
You will likely
have a test that compares the blood pressure in your legs with the blood
pressure in your arms. This test is called an ankle-brachial index. A test
called an arterial
Doppler ultrasound may be done to check the blood flow
in your arteries.
Blood tests to check your
cholesterol and blood sugar can tell whether you may
have other problems related to PAD, such as high cholesterol and
How is it treated?
Treatment for PAD relies mainly on healthy lifestyle changes and taking care to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol. You may need medicines to ease symptoms or to manage other health problems. In some cases, you may need surgery or a procedure called angioplasty.
When you have PAD, you have a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Making healthy changes along with taking medicines can help reduce this risk.
- If you smoke, quit. It's one of the most important things you can do. If you
need help, talk to your doctor about programs and medicines that can
help you stop.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Follow an exercise program.
- Manage your cholesterol and blood pressure if they are high. You may need medicines to help you do this.
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in a target range.
- Lose weight if you need to, and maintain a healthy weight.
Your doctor may suggest that you attend a
cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program. In cardiac rehab, you will get education and support to help you make new, healthy habits.