Peripheral Arterial Ultrasound
What is it?

Peripheral arterial disease – also known as P.A.D. – is a common, yet serious, disease. It occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This buildup- called plaque- narrows your arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood. P.A.D. is most commonly seen in the legs, but also can be present in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys, and stomach. Nearly everyone who has P.A.D. — even those who do not have leg symptoms — suffers from an inability to walk as fast or as far as they could before P.A.D.

What causes P.A.D.?

The cause of plaque buildup in the limbs is unknown in most cases. However, there are some conditions and habits that raise your chance of developing P.A.D.

You increase your risk if you:

  • Are over the age of 50.
  • Smoke or used to smoke. Those who smoke or have a history of smoking have 4 times greater risk of P.A.D.
  • Have diabetes. One in every 3 people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have P.A.D.
  • Have high blood pressure. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure raises the risk of developing plaque in the arteries.
  • Have high blood cholesterol. Excess cholesterol and fat in your blood contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries, reducing or blocking blood flow to your heart, brain, or limbs.
  • Have a personal history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke. If you have heart disease, you have a 1 in 3 chance of also having P.A.D.
  • Are African American. African Americans are more than twice as likely to have P.A.D. as their white counterparts.

Most people with P.A.D. have one or more conditions or habits that raise the risk for heart disease: smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high blood cholesterol.

How is P.A.D. diagnosed?

A basic test is a simple non-invasive test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). Painless and easy, the ABI compares the blood pressure readings in your ankles with the blood pressure readings in your arms. An ABI can help determine whether you have P.A.D., but it cannot identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked.

A Doppler Ultrasound test is used to see whether a specific artery is open or blocked. This test uses sound waves to measure the blood flow in the veins and arteries in your arms and legs.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of P.A.D.?

The overall goals for treating P.A.D. are to reduce any symptoms, improve quality of life and mobility, and prevent heart attack, stroke, and amputation. There are three main approaches to treating P.A.D.: making lifestyle changes; taking medication, and in some cases, having a special procedure or surgery. Your health care provider will determine the best treatment options for you, based on your medical history and the severity of your condition.

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