Living With and Treating Peripheral Artery Disease

If you have P.A.D., you may feel pain in your calf or thigh muscles after walking. Try to take a break and allow the pain to ease before walking again. Over time, this may increase the distance that you can walk without pain. Talk with your doctor about taking part in a supervised exercise program. This type of program has been shown to reduce P.A.D. symptoms.

If you have P.A.D., you should check your feet and toes regularly for sores or possible infections. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well. Maintain good foot hygiene and have professional medical treatment for corns, bunions, or calluses.

See your doctor for checkups as he or she advises. If you have P.A.D. but don’t have symptoms, you should still see your doctor regularly. Take all medicines as your doctor prescribes.

Treatment Can Help

Treatment for P.A.D. may slow or stop the progress of the disease, reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications.

Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines, and surgery or procedures. The exact treatment you get is based on your signs and symptoms, risk factors, and results from a physical exam and tests. Researchers continue to explore new therapies for P.A.D.

Lifestyle Changes

Treatment of P.A.D. often includes making long-lasting lifestyle changes, such as

• quitting smoking

• lowering blood pressure

• lowering high blood cholesterol levels

• lowering high blood glucose (sugar) levels if you have diabetes

• getting regular exercise or other physical activity

• following a healthy eating plan that’s low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt) and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

One example of a healthy eating plans is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).

Lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay P.A.D. They may also prevent related problems such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is sometimes called a “mini-stroke.”


Medications are sometimes used to treat P.A.D. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to

• lower high blood cholesterol levels

• lower high blood pressure

• prevent blood clots from forming due to low blood flow

• improve circulation

• help ease leg pain that occurs when you walk or climb stairs.

Surgery and Other Procedures

In some people, lifestyle changes are not enough to control P.A.D. Surgery and other procedures may be needed. For example, your doctor may recommend bypass grafting surgery if blood flow in your limb is blocked or nearly blocked.

In bypass grafting surgery, a blood vessel from another part of the body or a man-made tube is used to make a graft. This graft bypasses (goes around) the blocked part of the artery. The bypass allows blood to flow around the blockage. This surgery doesn’t cure P.A.D., but it may increase blood flow to the affected limb.

Angioplasty is used to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery. During this procedure, a catheter (thin tube) with a balloon at the tip is inserted into a blocked artery. The balloon is inflated, which pushes plaque outward against the artery wall. This widens the artery and restores blood flow.

A stent (a small mesh tube) may be placed in the artery during angioplasty. A stent helps keep the artery open after the procedure is done. Some stents are coated with medicine to help prevent blockages in the artery.

In a procedure called atherectomy (ath-eh-REK-to-mee), plaque buildup is removed from an artery. During the procedure, a catheter (thin tube) is used to insert a small cutting device into the blocked artery. The device is used to shave or cut off the plaque. The bits of plaque are removed from the body through the catheter or washed away in the bloodstream (if they’re small enough). Doctors also can do atherectomy using a special laser that dissolves the blockage.

This article originally appeared on NIH Senior Health.

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