A medical and family history is important in diagnosing peripheral vascular disease (PVD). A doctor may ask about family history of heart disease and review medical history, including medications and the presence of health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The doctor may also ask if the individual smokes or has any symptoms in the legs when sitting, standing, walking, or exercising. The physical exam may involve: checking blood flow in the leg or foot to see if the pulse is either weak or absent; checking pulses in the leg arteries for an abnormal whooshing sound called a bruit (a bruit can be heard with a stethoscope and may be a warning of a narrow or blocked section of an artery); checking for poor wound healing; comparing blood pressure between the limbs to see if blood pressure is lower in the affected limb; and checking hair, skin, and nails for any changes that may indicate PVD.
Angiography: An angiography is a form of imaging that allows a doctor to view blood flow through the arteries. A contrast material (dye) is injected into the blood vessels. This allows the doctor to see the flow of the contrast material with the use of imaging machines. Blood flow in individuals with PVD may be slow or blocked completely. Angiography can be done using X-ray imaging or procedures called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or computed tomography angiography (CTA).
Electrocardiogram (ECG): An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a diagnostic test in which electrode patches are attached to the skin to measure electrical impulses in the heart. A doctor may monitor an ECG during and after the treadmill test. If PVD is causing blocked arteries in the individual, changes in the ECG may be seen.
Blood tests: Doctors can check the individual's blood to measure cholesterol and check the level of C-reactive protein, which is a marker for heart disease.
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