Peripheral Arterial Disease

Prescription Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:

  • Treat unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure
  • Prevent blood clots from forming due to low blood flow. A blood clot can completely block an already narrowed blood vessel and cause tissue death. Your doctor may prescribe daily aspirin therapy or another medication that helps prevent blood clots, such as clopidogrel (Plavix).
  • Help ease leg pain that occurs when you walk or climb stairs. The drug cilostazol increases blood flow to the limbs both by preventing blood clots and by widening the blood vessels. It specifically helps treat symptoms of claudication, such as leg pain, for people who have peripheral artery disease.
  • If you also have diabetes, it becomes even more important to control your glucose levels.
  • Avoid certain cold medications. Over-the-counter cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine such as Advil Cold & Sinus, Aleve Sinus & Headache, Claritin-D, Sudafed, Tylenol Cold, Zyrtec-D, etc. constrict your blood vessels and may increase your PAD symptoms.

Surgery or Procedures

Bypass Grafting. Your doctor may recommend bypass grafting surgery if blood flow in your limb is blocked or nearly blocked. For this surgery, your doctor uses a blood vessel from another part of your body or a man-made tube to make a graft. The graft goes around the blocked part of the artery and allows blood to flow around the blockage.

This surgery doesn’t cure PAD, but it may increase blood flow to the affected limb.

Angioplasty and Stenting. Your doctor may recommend angioplasty to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery.

During this procedure, a thin tube with a balloon at the tip is inserted into a blocked artery. The balloon is then inflated, to reopen the artery and flatten the blockage into the artery wall, while at the same time stretching the artery open to increase blood flow. A stent (a small mesh tube) may also be placed in the artery during angioplasty. A stent helps keep the artery open after angioplasty is done. Some stents are coated with medicine to help prevent blockages in the artery.

Atherectomy. Atherectomy is a surgical procedure that removes plaque buildup from an artery. During the procedure, a tube is used to insert a small cutting device into the blocked artery. The device is used to shave or cut off plaque.

The bits of plaque are removed from the body through the tube or, if they are small enough, allowed to wash away in the bloodstream. A newer technique uses a special laser that dissolves the blockage.

Thrombolytic therapy. If you have a blood clot blocking an artery, your doctor may inject a clot-dissolving drug into your artery at the point of the clot to break it up.

Foot Care

People with peripheral artery disease, particularly those with diabetes, are at risk of slow healing which can impact the lower legs and feet. Poor blood circulation can postpone or prevent proper healing and increases the risk of infection. Here’s a few Rules for Survival when it comes to caring for your your feet.


National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

American Heart Association

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