Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a serious medical condition that affects arteries throughout the body. It can have severe consequences, such as renal failure, stroke, aneurysm rupture, leg pain, limb loss, and even death.
PAD is often used interchangeably with Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), but critical differences exist.
PAD refers to narrowed or blocked arteries responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body. PVD, on the other hand, refers to complications with veins, which are responsible for returning blood to the heart.
Carotid Artery Stenosis
Carotid artery stenosis is the constriction of the major arteries on both sides of the neck. According to the American Heart Association, these vital arteries supply blood to the head, face, and brain.
The narrowing typically occurs due to plaque accumulation within the arterial walls, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
With the progression of stenosis, the artery’s diameter decreases, potentially leading to complete blockage, significantly increasing the risk of a stroke.
Those with carotid artery stenosis may sometimes face dizziness, fainting, and blurred vision. These symptoms can indicate insufficient blood flow to the brain.
Now that you have a general understanding of vascular disease and its associated risk factors, the next section will explain everything you need to know about the vascular screening process.
What is Vascular Screening?
Vascular screening is a non-invasive test that measures blood flow in the arteries and veins. As previously mentioned, these tests screen for and monitor vascular problems like peripheral artery disease (PAD), Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and carotid artery stenosis.
It’s important to note that vascular disease can often be asymptomatic until a life-threatening event like a blood clot or aneurysm occurs. Therefore, screening for PAD and PVD can be life-saving.
In the following sections, we will discuss common questions surrounding vascular screenings.
Is Vascular Screening Painful?
Vascular screenings are administered by physicians using ultrasound imaging instead of needles. Ultrasound imaging allows your physician to check blood cells through high-frequency sound waves that echo off the blood cells.
Ultrasound imaging is then sent to a computer system to display the images or videos, allowing the physician to properly monitor for any problems in a painless way.
How Long Do Vascular Screenings Take?
The duration of vascular screenings can depend on various factors, such as the specific tests and the facility where the screening occurs. It is generally considered to take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
Consider contacting the facility you plan to have your screening to ask questions about the estimated duration, as they will be able to provide you with more context to their specific procedures.
What Happens During Vascular Screening?
The screening will consist of three diagnostic tests. Below we will break down each of the three tests in detail.
1. Carotid Artery Screening (Neck Arteries)
Carotid artery screening is a non-invasive test that uses vascular ultrasound to examine the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain.
This test is essential because narrowed carotid arteries or a blockage in these arteries are signs of carotid artery disease (CAD), which increases the risk of stroke. During the screening, a technician will apply gel to the neck area and use a small handheld device to capture images of the carotid arteries.
These images will show any artery narrowing or blockages, allowing doctors to identify and treat CAD before a stroke occurs.
2. Lower Extremity Arterial Screening (Leg Arteries)
Lower extremity arterial screening is another non-invasive test that checks the amount of blood flow that reaches the legs and feet.
A blockage in these arteries indicates peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can cause leg pain while walking. If left untreated, these venous diseases can lead to limb amputation.
During the screening, a technician will use a blood pressure cuff and a handheld device that emits sound waves to measure blood flow in the legs. This test is painless and takes only a few minutes to complete.
3. Aorta (Aneurysm) Screening
The third test is aorta (aneurysm) screening, an ultrasound exam of the abdominal aorta, the large artery in the stomach, to check for signs of aneurysms and abnormalities. Weak or bulging vessels in the artery can cause an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The larger the aneurysm, the greater the risk of rupture, which can cause fatal internal bleeding.
During the screening, a technician will apply gel to the stomach area and use a small handheld device to capture images of the aorta. These images will show any weak or bulging areas in the artery, allowing doctors to monitor and treat AAAs before they become life-threatening.
These three free and painless diagnostic tests through Michigan Vascular are crucial for preventing venous diseases.
Each patient can have a copy of their test results sent to their physician for further evaluation and treatment if necessary.
The section below will explore specific criteria for those needing vascular screening.
Who is Vascular Screening For?
A family history of PAD, aneurysm, or stroke is a few risk factors to consider when looking into vascular screening.
If you’re 50 or older with any of these risk factors, pay attention to your vascular health:
- Elevated cholesterol
- Coronary artery disease
- Smoking, renal disease
- Diabetes, or a family history of PAD
To Avoid the Need for Vascular Screening
Protect your health by modifying risk factors through lifestyle changes listed below:
- Heart-healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Quitting smoking
- Manage diabetes and hypertension
- Reduce alcohol consumption
Discuss the risk factors with your healthcare provider to make personalized and informed decisions regarding your health based on your medical history.
Benefits of Vascular Screening
Vascular screenings can bring peace of mind through preventing vascular problems, action in early detection, and treatment options with your healthcare provider.
Prevention: Screening results can promote change through taking necessary lifestyle changes, as mentioned above. These lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of developing vascular problems.
Early Detection: Detecting peripheral artery disease (PAD), carotid artery disease, or abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) early can initiate action and attempt to prevent any progression of these issues.
Treatment Options: Healthcare providers provide customized treatment plans based on your needs.
Be proactive for your health with routine vascular screenings. We hope this article gives you an understanding of vascular disease, vascular screening, its benefits, and if it makes sense for you.
Have questions? Reach out to us at Michigan Vascular or Call (810) 720-ASAP (2727) to schedule a free and confidential vascular screening through Michigan Vascular to assess your risk of stroke, aneurysm, and peripheral arterial disease.