Your doctor will review your personal risk factors for atherosclerosis and your family history. Your doctor will ask if you or any family members have heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other circulation disorder. During the physical examination, your doctor will feel the pulse in your upper leg (near the groin), on the inside of your ankle, the top of your foot and the back of your knee. Any weakness in a pulse may be a sign of narrowed arteries.
Usually the doctor can diagnose peripheral vascular disease based upon your symptoms, risk factors, the examination of your legs, and the strength of your pulses. If more information is needed, other tests include blood-pressure measurements taken at various locations in the legs, Doppler studies of blood flow, special ultrasound testing, and exercise testing on a treadmill. If your doctor suspects that you may need a procedure to help open a blocked blood vessel, you may need a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your arteries or an angiogram, which is an X-ray test that uses dye in the narrowed arteries to reveal the pattern of blood flow and spot blockages.
Once you have peripheral vascular disease, your arteries will usually remain narrowed. However, even though your arteries are narrowed, your symptoms can decrease and even go away with treatment.