In peripheral artery disease, or PAD, fatty material called plaque builds up inside the arteries th...
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In peripheral artery disease, or PAD, fatty material called plaque builds up inside the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to your legs. The plaque can reduce the blood flow, so the muscle cells in your legs don't get the oxygen they need, causing pain and cramps. Diagnosis of PAD starts with a physical examination. Your doctor can check for a weak pulse in your legs, and whooshing sounds called bruits, which are heard when they listen to blood flow. Your doctor may recommend an ankle-brachial index, or ABI. An ABI compares the blood pressure in your ankles and arms. An ABI is done with a regular blood pressure cuff. A handheld ultrasound device called a Doppler lets your doctor listen to blood flow. Normally, the pressure in the ankle is the same or higher than the pressure in the arm, and the index is around 1. As PAD becomes more severe, the index number becomes smaller. ABI may be done if you have symptoms of PAD like leg pain brought on by walking. But since PAD often causes no symptoms, ask your doctor about ABI if you are over 50 and have risk factors, which include smoking, diabetes, overweight, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend other tests for PAD. These can include imaging tests such as an ultrasound, MRI, or a CT scan of the arteries in your legs.