You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of blood vessels (vascular specialist) or a doctor who specializes in the heart and circulatory system (cardiologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking, and include dosage information.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. For peripheral artery disease, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Is peripheral artery disease temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- What can I do on my own that might help me get better?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Are your symptoms continuous or occasional?
- Do your symptoms get worse when you exercise?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do your symptoms get better when you're resting?
- Do you use tobacco products? If yes, how much?
What you can do in the meantime
If you're a smoker, it's never too soon to quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of peripheral artery disease and can make existing PAD worse. Other healthy lifestyle habits you can immediately adopt are eating less saturated fat and adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
June 22, 2012
- Peripheral artery disease. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec07/ch080/ch080f.html. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Peripheral artery disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Mohler III ER. Clinical features, diagnosis, and natural history of lower extremity peripheral arterial disease. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-PAD_UCM_301308_Article.jsp. Accessed May 8, 2012.
- Hirsch AT, et al. ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006;47:e1.
- Rooke TW, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Circulation. 2011;124:2020.
- Kuller LH. Does ginkgo biloba reduce the risk of cardiovascular events? Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2010;3:41.