What Doctors Diagnose and Treat Peripheral Artery Disease?

Are you worried that pain in your leg is getting worse? Or are you experiencing cold toes or feet? Sometimes you may even have numbness or burning sensations in your legs.

You may be experiencing symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

It’s important to not assume these symptoms as part of the normal aging process because if not detected early, PAD could lead to amputation. But what type of doctor or PAD specialist should you see for help?

Start with your primary care physician

See your primary care physician (PCP) if you’re experiencing any leg pain, wounds that won’t heal or dry, discolored skin. Before arriving at a PAD diagnosis, your PCP will initially consider your:

  • Medical history. Expect questions about your history of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol levels, previous surgical and interventional radiological procedures, chronic kidney disease and more. Your PCP also will ask you about your smoking history.
  • Family’s medical history. Do you have one or more members of your immediate family who have undergone surgical procedures on arteries in the legs like balloon angioplasty, stent or surgical bypass before the age of 65? Do you have a relative who has had a non-traumatic foot or lower leg amputation?
  • Clinical examination. Your doctor may assess you for weak or absent artery pulses, measure blood pressure with the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, take blood, and check your skin and nails for poor wound healing and changes in color.

When to see a PAD specialist

For early-stage PAD, your doctor may recommend long-lasting lifestyle changes. “You often can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising and eating a healthy diet,” according to the Mayo Clinic. PCPs can also treat moderate cases with medication.34

However, for more advanced cases of PAD, your PCP may recommend seeing a PAD specialist, such as:

  • Interventional cardiologists or radiologists who perform minimally invasive procedures like angioplasty, atherectomy or stenting to restore blood flow.
  • Vascular specialists who treat blood vessel diseases and can perform lower extremity bypass surgery to treat PAD. This bypass graft surgery in the leg removes a healthy blood vessel in the leg and grafts it above and below the blockage.
  • Cardiologists who may be consulted in case of heart problems, such as congenital heart disease (CHD), chest pains and a heart attack, associated with PAD.

Don’t wait to talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Seeing a PCP and getting an early diagnosis can make a big difference in your health – and possibly save you from amputation.

For more information

Take CSI’s interactive Symptom Quiz if you’re concerned about PAD. The quiz offers a list of questions to help you talk with your PCP. You can also use our Find a Doctor tool to locate a PAD specialist near you.