Poor circulation is commonly referred to as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). PAD is the restriction of blood flow in the arteries of the leg. When arteries become narrowed by plaque, from cholesterol or other materials on the walls of the arteries, blood flow through the arteries cannot reach the legs and feet.
The presence of PAD may be an indication of a more widespread arterial disease in the body that can cause a stroke or heart attack.
Common symptoms of PAD include:
- Leg pain or cramping that occurs while walking or while lying down
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Cold legs or feet
- Sores that will not heal on the toes, feet, or legs
- A change in leg color
- Loss of hair on the feet and legs
- Changes in toenail color and thickness
It is important that people with known risk factors be screened or tested for PAD.
Risk factors include:
- Being over age 50
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Personal or family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke
- Sedentary lifestyle
To diagnose PAD, a comprehensive medical history is typically obtained. A lower extremity physical examination may be completed, which can include the evaluation of pulses, skin condition, and foot deformities to determine the patient's risk of PAD.
Several non-invasive tests are available to assess PAD. The ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a simple test where the blood pressure is measured and compared to the arm and ankle levels. An abnormal ABI is a reliable indicator of PAD, and additional testing and treatment may be necessary. Left untreated, PAD can lead to debilitating and limb threatening consequences.