There are several treatment options available for the one in 20 Americans over the age of 50 who suffer from peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Successful PAD treatment plans can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, minimize symptoms, prevent complications such as blood clots and improve the ability to move thereby increasing the overall quality of life.
Peripheral arterial disease treatments begin with an assessment of how a patient’s lifestyle has contributed to the advancement of PAD as well as the patient’s signs and symptoms, risk factors, and the results of physical exams and tests.
Your doctor may start your treatment with minor lifestyle changes that can reduce your cholesterol levels and increase circulation to treat your PAD symptoms. These treatments may slow the progression of PAD.
Patients who smoke are highly encouraged to quit smoking, as smoking tobacco causes swelling and redness (inflammation) that leads to arterial plaque forming.
Your doctor may also suggest a low fat, high fiber diet since fatty deposits inhibit blood flow. Changing to a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL levels) that lead to the plaque buildup within the arteries.
In addition, your doctor can recommend light exercise either monitored or unmonitored depending on the stage of the disease and your symptoms. You may have to begin slowly, but regular walking regimens, leg exercises and treadmill exercise programs can increase overall circulation and ease symptoms.
If blood pressure and or high cholesterol is a contributing factor a combination of diet, exercise, coupled with medication therapy may be prescribed which can the prevent or slow the progression of PAD or atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries). If you have diabetes, you may also be prescribed medication to control your blood sugar levels.
With PAD, it is also important to improve blood flow throughout the body to prevent the formation of blood clots. To increase blood flow and to prevent claudication (leg pain), patients may also be prescribed blood thinning medications. Pain medication may also be prescribed to reduce the claudication associated with PAD.
Procedures and Surgery
In the more advanced stages of PAD when the arteries in your legs and feet become significantly blocked, more invasive treatment such as surgery may be recommended by your vascular surgeon or doctor.
Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to open narrow or blocked arteries performed by a vascular surgeon. This procedure is used in different parts of your body, depending on the location of the affected artery. It requires only a small incision.
During the angioplasty procedure, your vascular surgeon uses a tiny balloon to widen the blocked artery. A stent, a tiny mesh tube, may also be used and is inserted into your artery and left there to prevent it from closing. After the procedure, your doctor may prescribe low-dose aspirin or antiplatelet drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), to prevent clotting around the stent. You may also be prescribed medications to help lower your cholesterol thereby preventing further arterial plaque buildup.
A well-established and highly effective procedure, graft bypass may be the next step for patients who are not good candidates for angioplasty, or where a prior angioplasty procedure has not been effective.
In lower extremity bypass graft surgery, a vascular surgeon creates an alternative channel using a vessel from another part of your body. The newly placed vessel will bypass the area of blockage and restore direct flow to the lower leg and foot. Graft bypass surgery is performed under anesthesia via incisions in the leg.
With PAD, you may have an increased risk for blood clots. If a blood clots forms, thrombolytic therapy may be performed under local anesthesia by a vascular surgeon by injecting a clot-dissolving drug into your artery delivered through a peripheral intravenous (IV) line. The drug circulates within the blood stream until it reaches the clot breaking it up.
Consult your doctor for the several treatment options that are available to minimize the progression of PAD and allow you to get back on your feet and start enjoying life again!