Common symptoms used to diagnose PAD, or peripheral artery disease, include a type of leg pain called intermittent claudication, numbness or weakness in the legs, and ulcers on the legs, feet or toes, says Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms are loss of hair on the legs.
The legs also change color and become shiny with PAD, claims Mayo Clinic. The legs and feet might also have a weak or absent pulse, and the patient's toenails don't grow as quickly as they should. Gangrene is also a complication of severe PAD, says the American Heart Association. The leg or foot affected by PAD is also colder than the rest of the body. Men experience erectile dysfunction.
Intermittent claudication happens when the person is active, but as the PAD progresses, he might even feel the symptoms when he lies down, says Mayo Clinic. This is called ischemic rest pain. The pain of intermittent claudication is different from the pain of arthritis in that the muscles are involved and not the joints, claims the AHA.
To diagnose PAD, a doctor may check the pulse in the affected leg, says AHA. He may then give the patient an ankle-brachial exam, which compares the blood pressure in the foot to that in the arm. PAD is suspected if the pressure in the foot is half that of the pressure in the arm. Other diagnostic tests are Doppler, ultrasound, CT scan, MRA and angiography.