While peripheral artery disease (PAD) is progressive and cannot be cured, there are treatment options that can help slow or stop its progression, reduce symptoms like intermittent claudication, and reduce your risk for cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, or serious blockages in the legs that could lead to amputation.
Surgical and nonsurgical procedures
The following may be performed to restore blood flow in a blocked artery:
- Angioplasty opens a blocked artery by inflating a tiny balloon inside the blockage
- Stent implantation permanently props open a blocked artery with a tiny, wire mesh tube that is placed during an angioplasty
- Atherectomy uses a sharp blade and a catheter to collect and remove plaque from inside a blocked artery
- Peripheral artery bypass graft surgery reroutes blood around a completely blocked artery using a man-made blood vessel or a blood vessel from another part of your body
While the above procedures are often necessary and even lifesaving, they are not a permanent solution to your PAD, which is why it’s important to keep taking any medicines your healthcare professional has prescribed.
Prescription and nonprescription antiplatelet blood thinners
These may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots that can cause serious blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs. An antiplatelet is one type of blood thinner that works by helping to keep platelets (which are pieces of blood cells) from sticking together. Examples include:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
- Dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT): aspirin plus one other antiplatelet medicine, such as clopidogrel, is typically prescribed temporarily to help prevent blood clots after stent implantation or peripheral artery bypass graft surgery, or after a cardiovascular event
Prescription anticoagulant blood thinners
Anticoagulant blood thinners like XARELTO® are another type of blood thinner that works by slowing down the blood’s clotting process. XARELTO® can be added to aspirin to help further reduce the risk for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death.
Other prescription medicines
These may be prescribed to address other health conditions or risk factors that contribute to the progression of your PAD. Examples include:
- Medication to help lower your blood pressure
- Medication to help lower your cholesterol
- Medication to control blood sugar in people with diabetes
While no medicine or procedure can completely rid your arteries of plaque, it is possible to slow the progression of your PAD by managing your overall health. In addition to taking any other medicines your doctor has prescribed, like medicines for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s also important to make certain lifestyle changes, including:
- Studies show that one year after quitting, your risk for developing coronary artery disease (CAD) drops by about 50%. 15 years after quitting, your risk is the same as someone who has never smoked.
Switching to a heart-healthy diet
- Find tips that make eating well simple and straightforward.
Adding physical activity
- When supervised by your healthcare professional, an exercise program that includes walking can improve your PAD symptoms by increasing blood to your limbs, strengthening your heart, and helping your body use oxygen more efficiently.