Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD, Peripheral Artery Disease, Peripheral Arterial Disease, PAD)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

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What are the treatments for peripheral artery disease?

Treatment goals for peripheral artery disease include:

  1. Relieve the pain of intermittent claudication.
  2. Improve exercise tolerance by increasing the walking distance before the onset of claudication.
  3. Prevent critical artery occlusion that can lead to foot ulcers, gangrene, and amputation.
  4. Prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Treatment of peripheral artery disease includes lifestyle measures, supervised exercises, medications, angioplasty, and surgery.

Lifestyle changes

  • Smoking cessation eliminates a major risk factor for disease progression and lowers the incidences of rest pain and need for amputations. Smoking cessation is also important for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.
  • A healthy diet can help lower blood cholesterol and other lipid levels and may help control blood pressure.
  • Keep other risk factors, such as diabetes, lipid levels, and blood pressure under control by following medical advice regarding medications and lifestyle changes.

Supervised exercise

Proper exercise can condition the muscles to use oxygen effectively and can speed the development of collateral circulation. Clinical trials have demonstrated that regular supervised exercise can reduce symptoms of intermittent claudication and allow the patients to walk longer before the onset of claudication. Ideally, exercise programs should be prescribed by the doctor. Patients should be enrolled in rehabilitation programs supervised by healthcare professionals such as nurses or physical therapists. For optimal results, patients should exercise at least three times a week, each session lasting longer than 30 to 45 minutes. Exercise usually involves walking on a monitored treadmill until claudication develops; walking time is then gradually increased with each session. Patients are also monitored for the development of chest pain or heart rhythm irregularities during exercise.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2015

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