What is an Ankle Brachial Index (ABI), and why do we recommend them for many of our patients with diabetes? Well, a smart ABIT is a quick test that tells us if blood flow in your legs is compromised. Since diabetes can impact your circulation, increasing your risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), foot ulcers and even amputations, it’s very important to monitor your blood flow. And, with this painless test, we’ll get a quick picture of the state of your circulation, so we can act quickly if there’s any change in your health.

What is a Smart Ankle Brachial Index (Smart-ABI)? blood flow in foot veins and arteries

This is the kind of test we perform in our Powder Springs, GA podiatry practice. It’s a testing device that combines Bluetooth technology with linked blood pressure cuffs. This pair performs the Ankle Brachial Index, measuring how well blood is flowing in your legs and arms.

What calculations does the test take? The ABI compares blood pressure levels in your arms and your ankles; then, it uses the differences to give you an index number. Once your diabetes care team has that index number, we’ll be able to tell if your leg arteries are narrowed, indicating PAD. We can even diagnose the severity of your condition, noting how far it has progressed so we can determine the appropriate treatment plan.

PAD Risk Factors: Who Needs a Smart-ABI test?

As we mentioned, having diabetes increases your risk for PAD. But other factors can also narrow your arteries, leading to this circulatory disease. These include:

  • High cholesterol and/or blood pressure levels
  • A family or personal history of stroke, heart disease or PAD
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Even if you don’t have diabetes, you may wish to ask us about the Smart-ABI test if other parts of your medical history raise your PAD risk. That’s especially true if you’ve noticed any symptoms of peripheral arterial disease.

PAD Symptoms

In the early stages of disease, PAD may not cause any symptoms. At other times, symptoms can be confusing, since they mimic signs of many other concerns. To stay safe, you should come in for an Ankle Brachial index if you notice any of the following warning signs:

  • Leg cramps that come on with movement, and resolve with rest
  • Cold feet or legs, especially when one leg is colder than the other
  • Weakness or numbing in the legs
  • Fatigue when walking or exercising
  • Loss of leg hair, or slower growth of leg hair and/or toenails
  • Changes in the color or texture of the skin on your legs  
  • Slow or lacking pulse in the feet
  • Non-healing wounds or ulcers
  • Erectile dysfunction

PAD is a progressive disease, and that’s why early detection is so important. Without intervention, your disease will get worse. Soon, you may experience chronic pain, even when you’re resting. Eventually, circulation may be so compromised that your limbs don’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood to function properly.

Furthermore, if you develop ulcers on your legs or feet, PAD will keep them from healing by robbing them of the nutrient-rich blood you need to form healthy new tissue. As they remain open, your wounds are much more likely to develop an infection. Next, that infection could develop gangrene. In turn, the gangrene can cause irreversible damage to your tissue. And, at that point, you may have no option but to amputate a foot or leg. Luckily, with early intervention, we can prevent or at least slow this dangerous chain of events. Clearly, then, the Smart-ABI test is a critical tool for preventative diabetic foot care.

ABI testing can help you get the treatment you need to avoid the risk of future surgeries and amputations.

What is an Ankle Brachial Index: Inside the Testing Process

Despite its incredible life-saving potential, taking a Smart-ABI test is a quick and painless process. We can do testing right in the comfort of our office, using non-invasive cuffs equipped to take your blood pressure and also report your ABI score.

Fitted with digital displays and using Bluetooth technology, we’ll measure blood pressure in your arm and ankle, and the cuffs will transmit the data directly to an easy-to-navigate app. Included in that data will be your blood pressure levels at each testing spot, along with a comparison of those pressures and information about how well your blood flow recovers between squeezes from the testing cuffs.

Why Should Diabetics Ask for the Smart-ABI Test? Smart ABI PAD test

When you’re living with diabetes, you’re already at risk for many complications that can impact your foot health. For that reason, Dr. Alvin Cowans always focuses on preventative care. One important way to protect your feet is to perform daily foot checks at home. Plus, you need to come in for quarterly exams in the office, where we can get a more comprehensive picture of your foot health.

As part of that exam, we may recommend taking your Ankle Brachial Index, especially if you have additional PAD risk factors. After all, if we detect even a small change in your blood flow, we can get to work right away on improving circulation. In this way, we can start treating PAD long before it leads to limb loss, heart attack, stroke or death.

What is an Ankle Brachial Index? Just ONE Way to Prevent PAD

While diagnostic testing can help detect PAD early, you also have to focus on your diet if you want to maintain healthy blood flow. After all, your arteries start to narrow when they’re clogged by plaque, a fatty deposit made up of cholesterol. And, since a diet high in saturated fats can contribute to rising cholesterol levels, working with a dietician as part of your diabetic care team can reduce your PAD risk while helping control your blood sugar levels—a true win-win situation!

Ready to detect your PAD risk and take control of your diabetic health? Don’t wait until the new year to turn over a new leaf. Instead, reach out to our office and request a diabetic foot exam. During your visit, we’ll discuss your PAD risk and determine whether a Smart-ABI test could help protect you from future complications.