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Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs - Treatment Overview

Your treatment for peripheral arterial disease (PAD) will focus on healthy lifestyle changes first. You may need to take medicines to ease leg pain or to help you manage other health problems.

If lifestyle changes don't help, or if your PAD gets very bad, you may need angioplasty or bypass surgery of the leg arteries.

It's important to do what you can to improve your health and possibly reverse the buildup of plaque in your arteries. When you have PAD, you have a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Making healthy changes and following your treatment plan can reduce this risk.

Healthy changes you can make

  • If you smoke, quit. Quitting is the best thing you can do when you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
  • Try to get more exercise. Studies show that walking 3 times a week for 3 to 6 months lengthens the distance you can walk before you need to stop because of leg pain.3 Being able to walk farther may mean that you are getting better blood flow to the muscles in your legs. A supervised exercise program that is designed just for you may help you the most.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
actionset.gif Heart Disease: Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet.

A cardiac rehab program can help you make lifestyle changes. In cardiac rehab, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you make new, healthy habits.

See Living With PAD for more ideas about changes you can make and about support to help you make them.

Medicines

You may need medicines to help prevent blood clots, improve cholesterol, or lower blood pressure. You might take a medicine that can help ease pain while you are walking.

Procedures and surgery

Sometimes peripheral arterial disease gets worse despite treatment. People who have severe PAD or who are at risk for losing a limb may need bypass surgery or other procedures (such as angioplasty) to restore proper blood flow to the legs.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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