How is peripheral vascular disease treated?

Treatment of peripheral vascular disease has two main aims. The first aim is to manage symptoms so that you can return to your normal activity level. The second aim of treatment is to limit or completely stop the progression of atherosclerosis.

Often, lifestyle modifications, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, can successfully treat peripheral vascular disease. Depending on the severity and underlying cause, your health care provider may also recommend medications or minimally invasive procedures.

What you can do to improve your peripheral vascular disease

In most cases, lifestyle modifications can be the most effective treatment for peripheral vascular disease. Your health care provider may recommend:

  • Eating a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Starting a supervised exercise program

Medications used to treat peripheral vascular disease

Depending upon your individual situation and risk factors, your health care provider may prescribe medicines from a number of different classes including:

  • Antihyperglycemic drugs, which control blood sugar in diabetes
  • Antihypertensive medications, which lower blood pressure
  • Antiplatelet drugs, which limit blood clot formation
  • Pain medications, which reduce pain during activity
  • Statins and other drugs, which lower blood cholesterol levels

Procedures used to treat peripheral vascular disease

If blood flow is completely or almost completely blocked, your health care provider may recommend one of the following procedures:

  • Angioplasty, in which the blocked blood vessel is widened by inflating a balloon-like catheter inside the blood vessel. A small mesh tube called a stent may be placed in the vessel to keep it open.
  • Bypass grafting, in which the blocked blood vessel is bypassed with a blood vessel harvested from another part of your body or with manufactured tubing
  • Thrombolytic therapy, in which a clot-dissolving drug is injected into the blood vessel to break up blood clots

What are the potential complications of peripheral vascular disease?

The outlook for peripheral vascular disease is good if appropriate treatment is received. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled peripheral vascular disease can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Amputation
  • Blood clots or emboli that block off small arteries
  • Gangrene
  • Open sores on the lower legs (ischemic ulcers)


  1. Peripheral artery disease. American Heart Association.
  2. Explore peripheral arterial disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index.
  3. Aboyans V, Criqui MH, Denenberg JO, et al. Risk factors for progression of peripheral arterial disease in large and small vessels. Circulation 2006; 113:2623.
  4. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy.Philadelphia: Saunders, 2012.

What is peripheral vascular disease?

Peripheral vascular disease is a condition in which the blood vessels in the lower extremities (feet, legs, or thighs) are narrowed, restricting blood flow. Peripheral vascular disease is primarily caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.

Individuals with diabetes, high blood press... Read more about peripheral vascular diseaseintroduction


What are the symptoms of peripheral vascular disease?

Individuals with mild peripheral vascular disease may experience no symptoms. Those with moderate or severe blood vessel blockages often experience symptoms that are the result of restricted blood flow to the lower extremities.

Intermittent claudication

One of the most common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease is intermittent claudication. Intermittent claudication... Read more about peripheral vascular diseasesymptoms


What causes peripheral vascular disease?

The primary cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque (consisting mostly of fat and cholesterol) in blood vessels.

Atherosclerosis is initiated by damage to blood vessels from smoking, high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high ... Read more about peripheral vascular diseasecauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation, Diabetes, Cholesterol