If you exhibit any of the symptoms of vascular disease or are at higher risk due to family history or other conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, or diabetes, your doctor may evaluate you for vascular conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD) or other conditions.
Some of the standard tests used to diagnose vascular conditions include:
- Ankle-brachial index, a test that measures the difference in blood pressure between your arm and your leg. If the pressure is very different, this could mean you have a vascular disorder affecting blood flow in your legs.
- Blood tests to look at levels of c-reactive protein, cholesterol, and enzymes.
- Imaging tests including x-rays, doppler, ultrasound, CT scans, PET scans, and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), which use sound waves or radiation to visualize your arteries or vascular systems.
- Angiography, during which contrast (dye) is injected into the artery, and then an x-ray is taken, allowing your care team to visualize any blockages and the blood flow through your artery and surrounding vessels.
Treatment for vascular conditions depends on factors like the specific condition, the location of a blockage, the severity of the condition, and your overall health. Treatment can prevent complications of the disease, relieve symptoms, or slow the progression of the condition.
Vascular conditions can often be treated with lifestyle and overall health changes, such as:
- Engaging in regular physical activity to increase blood flow and circulation. If walking is painful, your doctor can recommend other low-impact exercises.
- Diet changes.
- Quitting smoking.
- Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
- Managing other conditions such as cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
In addition to these measures, your doctor at Dignity Health may also suggest or provide additional steps, such as:
- Medication to lower your cholesterol or hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Surgery to unclog your arteries (called angioplasty)
Even if your vascular condition or disorder doesn’t cause uncomfortable symptoms, leaving vascular disorders untreated can become dangerous over time since arterial blockages and poor circulation can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It’s important to seek care as soon as possible if you think you or someone you love is living with a vascular condition. At Dignity Health, we are here to help.
If your doctor recommends vascular surgery, you will also receive instructions regarding appropriate steps to take after the procedure. You may need to avoid medications with a blood-thinning effect following the surgery. If you smoke, quitting can have a significant impact on the speed of your recovery.
Some soreness and stiffness is normal, and typically dissipates within a few days.
For many procedures, engaging in mild activity such as walking soon after the surgery is one of the most important steps to improve blood flow. A physical or occupational therapist can help you find and start doing enjoyable exercises that increase your overall activity level.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.