Common symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD) include:
- Pain or cramps in one or both hips, thighs, or calf muscles after walking or being physically active (intermittent claudication)
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Lower leg or foot are cool to the touch, especially when compared to the other side
- Sores that won’t heal on legs, feet, or toes
- A change in the skin color on the legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on feet or legs
- Slower growth of toenails
- Shiny skin on legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
It’s common for people with PAD to only experience symptoms during physical activity. This is because your muscles require more oxygen while moving or exercising. If the arteries in your legs are blocked, your muscles won’t get enough oxygen, and you may experience one or more of the symptoms above.
It’s important to note that it is possible to have PAD and not know it—especially if you aren’t very active.
How is PAD diagnosed?
If your healthcare professional thinks you have PAD, he or she will conduct a simple test called an ABI (ankle–brachial index) test.
The ABI is designed to show how well your blood is flowing in your limbs by comparing the blood pressure in your arm with the blood pressure in your ankle. While this test will show whether PAD is affecting your limbs, it won’t tell your healthcare professional which arteries are narrowed or blocked. To find that out, he or she may recommend other tests, including:
- Doppler ultrasound
- Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA)
- Computed tomography (CT) angiogram
- Catheter-based angiogram (or arteriogram)
Other tests may include a treadmill test to determine the severity of your symptoms and how much physical activity will trigger them. Blood tests may also be required to see whether you have other PAD risk factors like diabetes or high cholesterol.