Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a condition that develops when the blood vessels become partially or completely blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a gradual process where cholesterol substances are deposited on the walls of the arteries causing a narrowing. Blood clots often form in these narrowed areas and can break away and travel to other areas causing sudden and complete blockage of an artery. Risk factors for developing PAD/PVD include: diabetes, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic renal failure, obesity and age.

As PAD/PVD develops slowly there is often no symptoms. During a vascular assessment your podiatrist will take a thorough history looking for subtle signs and symptoms like changes in skin colour or shiny skin, brittle nails, hair loss, intermittent claudication (pain when walking relieved by rest), cold feet, ulcers and rest pain. Your podiatrist will also palpate the pulses in your feet and use a doppler to assess the quality of blood flow as well as the blood pressure in your feet/toes. Early detection means that appropriate management can be started to prevent major complications.

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Vascular