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By: Dr. Jesseka Kaldenberg-Leppert

Peripheral arterial disease, also known as PAOD, is obstruction of a peripheral artery (blood vessel), such as the arteries in your lower extremities. Causes of PAOD include atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque within the artery), clots, compression or inflammation. PAOD is a progressive disease, and it is important to recognize early in order to prevent complications such as ulcers or amputation.

Your podiatrist at Foot and Ankle Center of Iowa checks your feet for PAOD each time you are seen by asking questions about pain in your feet, pain when you are walking or pain when you are asleep that wakes you up as well as feeling your pulses, checking your capillary refill time, and looking at the overall appearance of your foot. Below is a list and explanation of what your foot and ankle doctor is looking for:

1. Generalized foot or leg pain when walking
2. Intermittent claudication: You are only able to walk so far before you must rest and sit down due to pain in your legs, ankles and feet. Once you rest you can continue with your walk.
3. Rest pain: Foot pain or cramps which wake you up from sleep but are relieved by dangling your feet over the bed or walking.
4. Pedal pulses: There are two major arteries in your foot which your foot and ankle doctor will feel for or possibly use a doppler to listen to. These arteries are located on the top of your foot and the inside of your ankle. If they are not audible, reduced in sound or nonpalpable, this can indicate arterial disease.
5. Capillary refill time: Your foot and ankle doctor will press on the end of your toe to evacuate all the blood and then watch the blood return to the end of the toe and see how long it takes for it to return. Longer time to return can indicate arterial disease.
6. Pedal hair: Your foot and ankle doctor will look to see if you have hair growth on your feet. If you do not, this can be a sign of arterial disease.
7. Coloration of your foot: If your foot has a red, purple, blue or white color instead of normal skin tone, this can indicate arterial disease.
8. Temperature of feet: If your feet are cold, this could mean that there is arterial disease.

A combination of all of these factors may lead to your podiatrist obtaining studies where your blood flow to your feet is assessed. These tests may include ultrasound, or a series of blood pressures being taken along your legs, ankle, feet and toes. Following these tests, your foot and ankle doctor will discuss the results as well as the next steps in treatment with you. Treatment may include referral to a vascular surgeon.

If you have any concerns about your feet, the foot and ankle specialists at Foot and Ankle Center of Iowa would love to see you and discuss these concerns as well as evaluate your feet and ankles. Call today to schedule an appointment!

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