A doctor diagnoses PAD by comparing blood pressure in your ankle and arm. This ratio is called the ankle-brachial index (ABI) score; lower pressure in the ankle than in the arm indicates blocked leg arteries.

Additional testing can measure the extent and location of plaque deposits. You may be asked to walk on a treadmill to reveal what level of exertion spurs symptoms. Doppler ultrasound can help pinpoint blockages and their severity.

If you have more advanced disease, angiography lets doctors actually visualize the blocked vessels. Your doctor can look at x-ray images that trace contrast dye flowing through your arteries for blockages.

Doctor's Viewpoint

Bruce Perler, MD, MBA The Julius H. Jacobson II Professor of Surgery; Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery & Endovascular Therapy; Director, Vascular Noninvasive Laboratory

The American Heart Association's statement sounds a well-needed alarm to postmenopausal women and their doctors: Your risk of peripheral artery disease may be higher than you think. The good news is that your doctor can diagnose PAD through simple blood-pressure testing, and if the condition is caught early, lifestyle changes alone may stop it from progressing.

Get more information from the Society for Vascular Surgery website, VascularWeb.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 09 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015