Peripheral artery disease screening

Published: March, 2011

Q. My senior center is sponsoring a test to check for "peripheral artery disease." The test is free, and they say it's safe and painless. Do you think it's a good idea?

A. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a form of atherosclerosis. In this case, cholesterol deposits produce blockages in the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to your legs. Mild blockages don't cause any symptoms, but more substantial disease can cause leg pain when you walk, which is called intermittent claudication. And severe narrowing will produce pain at rest or, worst of all, critical tissue damage that requires urgent surgery or even amputation. If that's not bad enough, PAD also indicates an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.

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