Taking steps to learn about P.A.D., including asking your health care provider to check your risk, can help you stay in circulation longer to enjoy your life. 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 types of 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
- Your current diet and medications.
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;
- The color, temperature, and appearance of your legs and feet; and
- For signs of poor wound healing on the legs and feet.
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.