How is P.A.D. Diagnosed?

 How is P.A.D. Diagnosed?

Many types of health care providers diagnose and treat P.A.D.  Whether you see a family physician, internist, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, the first step is to ask about your risk for P.A.D.  Your provider will take a medical and family history, perform a physical exam, and conduct diagnostic tests.  In addition, there are many specialists who take care of patients with P.A.D., including:  vascular medicine specialists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, podiatrists, and interventional radiologists.

Medical and Family History

Your health care provider is likely to spend some time reviewing:

  • Your medical history, including the presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other important factors;
  • Your status as a current or former smoker;
  • Your personal and family history of cardiovascular disease;
  • Any symptoms you may be experiencing in your legs while sitting, standing, walking, climbing, or participating in other physical activities; and
  • Your current diet and medications.

Physical Exam

During the physical exam, your health care provider may check:

  • Pulses in your legs and feet to determine if there is enough blood flowing to these areas; Many of those with P.A.D. experience no symptoms.
  • The color, temperature, and appearance of your legs and feet; and
  • For signs of poor wound healing on the legs and feet.

Diagnostic Tests

When checking you for P.A.D., your health care provider may perform a simple noninvasive test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). Painless and easy, the ABI compares the blood pressure readings in your ankles with the blood pressure readings in your arms.  An ABI can help determine whether you have P.A.D., but it cannot identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked.  Your health care provider may decide to do a Doppler ultrasound test to see whether a specific artery is open or blocked.

This test uses sound waves to measure the blood flow in the veins and arteries in your arms and legs. Your health care provider may also perform blood tests to see if you have diabetes and check your cholesterol levels.  Other tests are also used to help diagnose P.A.D. Talk with your health care provider for more information.

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider

  1. Does my medical history raise my risk for P.A.D.?
  2. Which screening tests or exams are right for me?
  3. If I have P.A.D., what steps should I take to treat it?
  4. Will P.A.D. increase my risk for other conditions?
  5. What is my blood sugar level?  If it’s too high or if I have diabetes, what should I do about it?
  6. What is my blood pressure?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  7. What are my cholesterol numbers?  (These include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides—a type of fat found in the blood and food.)  Do I need to do anything about them?
  8. What can I do to quit smoking?