Peripheral Vascular Disease

What is it?

Peripheral vascular disease is the reduced circulation of blood to a body part other than the brain or heart. It is caused by a narrowed or blocked blood vessel. Peripheral vascular disease mainly affects blood vessels of the legs and kidneys and, less commonly, the arms. Narrowing is usually caused by arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is a condition where plaque builds up inside a vessel. It is also called “hardening of the arteries.” Plaque decreases the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to the arms and legs.

Risk Factors?

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke/CVA


  • 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 wont heal or heal slowly
  • Gangrene  - tissue death from not enough oxygen getting to the tissues
  • Toenails that are thick and opaque

How can a podiatrist help?

Podiatrists can perform thorough vascular testing and may be the first health professionals to detect any problems with the circulation. It is important to see a podiatrist for help with general foot care if you are unable to satisfactorily care for your feet or you are unable to reach your feet. We can offer advice on preventing wounds and ulcers to the feet through correctly fitting footwear and advice on preventing trauma to the foot. We can address any biomechanical anomalies that may be overloading a particular area of the foot and subjecting it to excess pressure or friction. We can also offer advice on wound care product selection should you have any wounds or ulcers.