Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a serious cardiovascular complication in diabetic patients, often goes undetected and should be screened for more frequently, concludes a Consensus Statement published in Diabetes Care (December 2003). PAD is a form of cardiovascular disease that occurs when blood vessels in the legs are narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits, which decrease blood flow to the feet and legs. Although often asymptomatic, patients with PAD may report pain when walking that disappears at rest. If untreated, PAD can lead to amputation of the lower limbs and can increase an individual?s risk for having a heart attack or stroke within 5 years.
A Consensus Panel convened by the American Diabetes Association recommends that all diabetics over age 50 be screened for PAD. Diabetes patients younger than 50 should be considered for screening if they have other risk factors for this condition (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes for >10 years). The recommended test for PAD is the ankle?brachial index, which compares the blood pressure in the ankle with that in the arm. If the pressure in the ankle is lower than the pressure in the arm, the individual may have PAD.