Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and diabetes are the leading causes of non-traumatic, lower-limb amputations. Over 64,000 happen each year and up to 80% of these could likely be prevented. A podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist) can help you diagnose, treat and sometimes prevent conditions that can lead to foot pain and even amputation.

About PAD

PAD affects 8 to 12 million Americans. One in every five people over the age of 70 has the disease. It is a common, yet serious disease. Men are more likely to have symptoms of PAD, but both men and women can develop the disease. PAD can impair physical health and diminish the ability to walk.

What is PAD?

"Atherosclerosis" or hardening of the arteries causes arteries to narrow or become blocked. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries of the heart it is called coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD can cause a heart attack. If atherosclerosis is in the limbs, it is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD has serious consequences for the legs, just as CAD has serious consequences for the heart.

PAD commonly affects blood flow to the legs. When blood vessels become too narrow, the pain, often described as muscle cramping, can be severe. It can also increase the chance of getting an infection while decreasing the ability to fight an infection if one occurs. In the advanced stages of PAD, known as critical limb ischemia (CLI), blood flow is blocked and legs are not receiving the oxygen or nutrition they need for cellular or tissue growth and repair. This can cause painful legs and foot sores. Eventually, it can lead to gangrene.

Risk Factors

Many individuals with PAD do not experience typical leg symptoms so those at risk should undergo screening for PAD.


Your podiatric physician can do a simple test called ankle-brachial index (ABI). It compares the blood pressure in your ankles with the blood pressure in your arm. If your ABI is abnormal yet your feet are symptomatic of PAD, your podiatric physician may order other tests to determine the extent of your PAD. There are numerous treatments and surgeries available to correct PAD. The key is to diagnose it in its earliest stages.

About Diabetes

Podiatrists not only treat patients with diabetes, they can be the first to discover signs of diabetes in your feet. Diabetes is a life threatening disease impacting over 24 million Americans and nearly 6 million additional people who don't even know they have it. Checking the feet for common symptoms of diabetes can help people at risk prevent serious complications. Since diabetic foot problems cause the highest percentage of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations in America, complications can be serious indeed.

Early detection will reduce amputation rates and improve the quality of life for people with diabetes. Your Washington State Podiatric Medical Association suggests checking your feet for warning signs of diabetes.

Once Diabetes is Detected

People with diabetes often develop "neuropathy" which affects the nerves making it difficult to feel cuts or wounds to the feet. Poorly fitted shoes, or even a stocking seam, can create a wound that may not be felt. Left unattended, such wounds can quickly become infected and lead to more serious consequences. Your podiatric physician knows how to treat and prevent these wounds and help keep your feet healthy and strong.


With more than 80 percent of patients with diabetes classified as overweight, exercise can play a key role in preventing and even treating the disease. Your Washington State Podiatric Medical Association can help you take strides toward better health by examining your feet and suggesting a walking regime.

Foot Tips For People With Diabetes

PAD Warning Signs

Diabetes Warning Signs

Download PDF