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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Peripheral Vascular Disease


What is peripheral vascular disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is the reduced circulation of blood to a body part other than the brain or heart. It most commonly affects the blood vessels of the legs and kidneys. It is caused by a narrowed or blocked blood vessel which is usually caused by arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is a condition where plaque builds up inside a vessel (also called “hardening of the arteries”). The plaque decreased the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to the legs or arms.

Risk Factors

The risk factors of peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Diabetes – this is the most significant risk factor
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • overweight
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke/CVA
  • Family history of peripheral vascular disease, stroke or coronary artery disease
  • Medical history of stroke, cardiovascular disease or heart attack


The symptoms of peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Painful cramping of the calves when walking. The pain intensifies with exertion and subsides with rest
  • Skin changes to your legs and feet (thinning, shiny, paleness)
  • Weak pulses in feet
  • Reduced hair growth on feet and legs
  • Wounds or ulcers on your feet that won’t heal or are slow to heal
  • Gangrene – tissue death from not enough oxygen getting to the tissues
  • Toenails that are thick and opaque
  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Coldness of the affected body part

How can a podiatrist help?

Podiatrist’s can perform thorough vascular testing and may be the first health professional to detect any problems with the circulation. Podiatrists can perform ankle-brachial pressure index (ABPI) which is the ratio of the blood pressure at the ankle to the blood pressure in the upper arm. Compared to the arm, lower blood pressure in the leg indicates blocked arteries due to peripheral vascular disease. It is important to see a podiatrist for help with general nail care if you are unable to care properly for your feet yourself. A podiatrist can offer advice on preventing wounds and ulcers and how to prevent trauma to the feet as well as suggesting proper footwear to help with these issues. People with diabetes who are over the age of 50 should have an ABPI to compare the blood pressure in their feet and arms as they are more likely to get peripheral vascular disease.