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Press Room : Press Releases

Press Room : Press Releases

For Immediate Release — November 21, 2003

Diagnosis of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is Important for People with Diabetes

Disease Has Few Symptoms, Serious Consequences, and Affects 1 in 3 with Diabetes

Alexandria, VA – A common, but serious, cardiovascular complication in people with diabetes often goes undetected and should be screened for more frequently, according to a Consensus Statement published in the December issue of Diabetes Care.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a form of cardiovascular disease that occurs when blood vessels in the legs are narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits, decreasing blood flow to the feet and legs. One in three people with diabetes over age 50 is estimated to have this condition; in all, as many as 12 million Americans have it. If undetected, PAD can lead to amputations of the lower limbs and increase a person's risk for having a heart attack or stroke within five years - resulting in death for about one-third of those patients.

"PAD is an unaddressed and under-appreciated problem for patients with diabetes," said Peter Sheehan, MD, Director of the Diabetes Foot & Ankle Center at the New York University School of Medicine, who chaired the Consensus Panel. "While many diabetes patients with PAD do not have any symptoms, some do experience problems such as leg pain or fatigue during walking and attribute it to just getting older. These people may not feel up to their usual activities and have a greatly reduced quality of life. More critical, people with diabetes and PAD have a high risk of other forms of cardiovascular disease – such as heart attacks and stroke."

Because of the high cardiovascular risk associated with PAD and the potential for functional impairment and limb loss, a Consensus Panel brought together by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that anyone over the age of 50 who has diabetes get screened for PAD. People with diabetes who are younger than 50 should be considered for screening if they have other risk factors for this condition, including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or having diabetes for more than 10 years.

The recommended test for PAD is the ankle brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure in a person’s ankle to the blood pressure in his or her arm. If the blood pressure in the ankle is lower than the pressure in the arm, that person may have PAD.

While PAD is often asymptomatic, those who do have symptoms report pain, cramping, or aching in the calves, thighs, or buttocks that occurs when walking or exercising and then disappears at rest; numbness, tingling, or coldness in the lower legs or feet; or sores or infections on the feet or legs that heal slowly.

The Consensus Panel recommends a treatment strategy that includes aggressive management of cardiovascular risk factors and treatment of PAD symptoms. Smoking cessation is essential, and antiplatelet therapy has been shown to be beneficial. Lowering blood glucose (A1C, a test of average blood glucose over three months, less than 7 percent), blood pressure (below 130/80 mmHg), and LDL cholesterol (below 100 mg/dl) is recommended for all people with diabetes to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.  Treatment for PAD symptoms includes exercise rehabilitation, medicines and, in some cases, surgical procedures.

Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association, is the leading peer-reviewed journal of clinical research into the nation’s fifth leading cause of death by disease. Diabetes also is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations. For more information about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association Web site or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).

For more information on PAD, go here.
For more information on the Consensus Panel, go here.

About the Vascular Disease Foundation:

The Vascular Disease Foundation is a nonprofit, public educational organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and management of vascular diseases.  Its outstanding board of directors includes physicians, nurses, vascular sonographers, rehabilitation professionals, and clinical researchers who have been on the forefront of fighting vascular diseases for many years.

For more information on VDF, or on vascular diseases, call 1-866-723-4636 or visit