Poor circulation in the lower limbs can be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD). This is a serious condition that can cause leg cramps, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, foot and ankle wounds, and difficulty walking. Older individuals and those with a history of cardiovascular problems are said to be particularly at risk. 

Your podiatrist can play a major role in detecting, diagnosing, and helping you manage PAD. Podiatrists can perform diagnostic vascular tests in the clinic. These tests are safe and noninvasive ways to assess blood flow in your lower limbs. Frequently used tests include the Ankle-Brachial Index test and Doppler ultrasonography. To learn more about PAD and to get tested, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist near you.  

Vascular testing plays an important part in diagnosing diseases like peripheral artery disease. If you have symptoms of peripheral artery disease or diabetes, consult with one of our podiatrists from Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our doctors will assess your condition and provide quality foot and ankle treatment.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral arterial disease, also known as (PAD), is a condition where there is reduced blood flow to the extremities, commonly the legs, due to blocked or narrowed arteries. Some common signs and symptoms of PAD include:

  • Leg cramps or pain, especially during physical activity (claudication)
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Coldness or discoloration of the leg or foot
  • Slow-healing wounds or sores on the legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

What Is Vascular Testing?

Vascular testing checks for how well blood circulation is in the veins and arteries. It is most often done to determine and treat peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke, and aneurysms. Podiatrists utilize vascular testing when a patient has symptoms of PAD or if they believe they might. If a patient has diabetes, a podiatrist may determine a vascular test to be prudent to check for poor blood circulation.

How Is It Conducted?

Most forms of vascular testing are noninvasive. Prior to a vascular test, podiatrists will conduct a visual inspection for wounds, discoloration, and abnormal signs.

 The most common tests include:

  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) examination:  This test measures the blood pressure in your ankles and arms using blood pressure cuffs. By comparing the ratios, your podiatrist can determine if there is reduced blood flow to your legs, indicating possible PAD.
  • Doppler examination: A Doppler ultrasound device evaluates blood flow in your arteries and detects any narrowing or blockages. This noninvasive procedure uses sound waves to create images of your blood vessels, providing valuable information to your podiatrist.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): In some cases, your podiatrist may recommend an MRA to obtain detailed images of your blood vessels. This imaging technique uses magnetic fields and radio waves to visualize the structure and flow of blood within your arteries.
  • Checking pedal pulses: Evaluating the presence and strength of pulses in the feet to assess blood circulation.

These tests are safe, painless, and easy to do. Once finished, the podiatrist can provide a diagnosis and the best course for treatment.

Importance of Vascular Testing in Diagnosing PAD

Vascular testing is essential for accurately diagnosing PAD and determining the appropriate treatment plan. By evaluating blood flow in your lower limbs, your podiatrist can identify blocked or narrowed arteries, enabling early intervention to prevent further complications.

If you have risk factors for vascular disease, such as diabetes, smoking, or a family history of circulation problems, vascular testing is even more crucial. Detecting and addressing these issues early can significantly reduce the risk of serious complications, including limb amputation.

Treatment for  Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

The treatment for peripheral artery disease (PAD) aims to manage symptoms, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of complications. The specific treatment plan may vary based on the severity of the condition and individual factors. 

Here are common approaches to treating PAD:

  • Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can significantly improve PAD symptoms and overall vascular health. This includes quitting smoking, managing weight through a balanced diet, participating in regular exercise (under medical supervision), and controlling conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Medications: Several medications may be prescribed to manage PAD, including:
    • Antiplatelet agents: Aspirin or clopidogrel can help prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
    • Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Statins can effectively lower LDL ('bad') cholesterol levels, reducing plaque buildup in arteries and promoting better blood flow.
    • Blood pressure medications: ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or calcium channel blockers might be prescribed to control high blood pressure and improve arterial function.
    • Medications to control blood sugar: If you have diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is crucial for managing PAD and preventing complications. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications or insulin as needed.
  • Exercise Therapy: A supervised exercise program that combines walking and other exercises can improve symptoms, increase walking distance, and enhance overall cardiovascular health. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialized exercise rehabilitation program.
  • Angioplasty and Stenting: In cases where there are severe blockages causing significant symptoms, angioplasty and stenting procedures may be recommended. This involves inserting a small balloon into the blocked artery to widen it and placing a stent to keep the artery open.
  • Bypass Surgery: For extensive blockages or when other treatments are not effective, bypass surgery may be considered. This involves creating a graft to bypass the blocked artery, restoring blood flow to the affected area.
  • Wound Care and Infection Management: If PAD has led to non-healing wounds or ulcers, proper wound care, and infection management are essential to prevent complications. This may include cleaning the wound, applying dressings, and using medications to promote healing.

Schedule an Appointment with Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, our experienced podiatrists offer comprehensive vascular testing and foot and ankle treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of PAD or have concerns about your vascular health, don't hesitate to contact us. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations inLake in the Hills, Cary, Fox Lake, Crystal Lake, Hoffman Estates, Chicago, Elgin, and Hinsdale, IL. We offer the newest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all your foot care needs.

Early detection through vascular testing is key to managing PAD effectively and improving your quality of life. Don't wait - take control of your vascular health today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can lifestyle changes help improve PAD?

Yes, adopting a healthy lifestyle can greatly benefit individuals with PAD. This includes quitting smoking, managing diabetes and other medical conditions, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a balanced diet.

How often should I have vascular testing for PAD?

The frequency of vascular testing for PAD depends on individual factors and the severity of the condition. Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate schedule for monitoring and re-evaluating your condition.

Is PAD a serious condition?

Yes, PAD is a serious condition that can lead to significant complications if left untreated. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, poor wound healing, and limb amputation.

How do you test for peripheral vascular disease?

Healthcare providers commonly utilize non-invasive diagnostic methods, such as the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test, Doppler ultrasound, and angiography, to assess peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and identify potential blood clots. These tests help diagnose PVD and detect blood clots, enabling timely treatment and management of the condition.