Diagnosing vascular diseases varies by condition. In general, your doctor will start by taking a thorough medical history. They will want to know about your symptoms and will ask questions about your risk factors, especially your family history. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam where they will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, and listen to your arteries.
Your doctor will likely order a series of tests. The tests used to diagnose your condition will depend on your specific symptoms and health history. Some of these tests include:
- Angiography, which allows your doctor to view blood as it flows through your arteries with a dye that is injected into your blood vessels. They will use an imaging technique such as computerized tomography or magnetic resonance.
- Ultrasound can help your doctor evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries.
- Venography, which is when x-ray examination is used with an injection of contrast material, much like angiography.
- Blood tests can be used to measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as to check for diabetes.
Treating vascular disease focuses on slowing the progression, treating any underlying causes, and relieving symptoms. Vascular disease treatments range from surgery to medication and lifestyle changes.
Vascular disease is not curable, but your symptoms can be effectively managed with lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, with medical or surgical interventions, or a combination of both. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent blood clots and lower your blood pressure.
You may begin by seeing your family doctor, but know that they will likely refer you to a vascular specialist or cardiologist, depending on your symptoms. It is a good idea to come prepared for this appointment with a list of your symptoms, medications you’re taking, and questions you have for your doctor.
You may ask about the possible cause of your symptoms, tests you may need, possible treatments, any home remedies that may help, and if this will interact with any other health conditions you currently have. Your doctor may also have additional resources for you that will answer any other questions.
When to call a doctor
With mild or moderate symptoms, it can sometimes be challenging to know when you should contact a medical professional. If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, seek emergency medical care immediately by calling 911.
If you are experiencing pain and have any risk factors for vascular disease, including being over the age of 50 and having a family history, talk to your doctor about your concerns. If you are under 50 and have a history of high blood pressure or obesity, your doctor will likely want to screen you for peripheral artery disease.
In general, if you experience pain that disrupts your everyday activities, it is best to check in with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.