Leg discomfort or pain may not be obvious until later in life and will be affected by a patient’s overall health. Early symptoms of leg claudication are often felt in the calf, but could be felt in the buttocks or thighs as well. Other symptoms beside leg discomfort or pain or cramping may be felt in the leg muscles during activity and include:
These symptoms fade when the legs are resting. With advanced peripheral artery disease, however, feet and toes may experience these symptoms while at rest. Additional symptoms may include:
- Increased infections
- Toe and foot sores that do not heal
- Redness to the skin or other color changes
- Feet skin that is cool to the touch
Patients with risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, advanced age, smoking or history of heart or vascular disease are often monitored by their primary care physicians for indications of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Diagnostic tests include:
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- Ankle/Brachial Index - measures blood pressure in the lower legs and in the arms. This screening determines blood flow in these areas and is a common method for detecting leg circulatory problems.
- Pulse volume recording - measures blood volume changes in the legs. Using blood pressure cuffs, the volume of air within the cuff when blood flows is recorded. Blood pressure is measured before and after the monitoring which helps determine if the issue is vascular or something else.
- Vascular ultrasound - a non-invasive sound wave test that delivers an image of the blood vessel in the leg identifying blockages.
- Angiography - an invasive test that uses dye injected into the blood vessels to develop X-ray pictures to determine blood flow and blockages.
- CT Scans and MRIs - diagnostic tools used in determine peripheral artery disease.