Munson Health
Peripheral Vascular Disease

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by Lyons S

(PVD; PAD; Arteriosclerosis Obliterans; Atherosclerosis; Peripheral Vascular Arterial Disease)



PAD is usually caused by a gradual buildup of plaque called atherosclerosis that happens within the arteries. Other causes include blood clots or embolisms, congenital heart disease, and inflammation of the blood vessels called vasculitis.
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PAD can be hereditary. You also may get PAD if you are overweight or obese, or have hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and not getting enough exercise lead to PAD.

Risk Factors

PAD is more common in men and in people over 50 years of age. Other factors that increase your chance of developing PAD include:


Early treatment can slow or stop the disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Lifestyle Changes

  • Smoking cessation
  • Diabetes control
  • Blood pressure control
  • Increased physical activity—such as a walking program
  • Weight loss, if overweight
  • Low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet
  • Foot care—very important for people with diabetes:
    • Shoes that fit properly
    • Proper treatment of all foot injuries—healing is slowed when circulation is poor, so the risk of infection is higher


Your doctor may prescribe:
  • Blood thinners to reduce blood clots
  • Pain medication
  • Statins to lower cholesterol
  • Vasodilators to widen arteries

Invasive Procedures

Procedures may include:
  • Balloon angioplasty—a balloon is inflated in the artery to stretch it
  • Stent implant—a wire mesh tube is placed in the artery; the stent expands and stays in place, keeping the artery open
  • Laser treatment
  • Atherectomy—a tube called a catheter is used to remove plaque inside a blood vessel


Surgery to open up narrowed arteries is performed in severe cases.
  • Endarterectomy—the lining of the artery is removed, along with plaque build up
  • Bypass surgery—a vein from another part of the body or a synthetic graft replaces the vessel

RESOURCES—American Academy of Family Physicians

Vascular Disease Foundation



Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada



About peripheral artery disease (PAD). American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated September 13, 2012. Accessed May 9, 2013.

American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association 2005 Practice Guidelines for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Circulation. 2006;113:e463-654.

Gey DC, Lesho EP, Manngold J. Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69:525-532.

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Peripheral arterial disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Feb 1;69(3):533. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2013.

Peripheral arterial disease and claudication. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated January 2011. Accessed May 9, 2013.

Regensteiner JG, Stewart KJ. Established and evolving medical therapies for claudication in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2006;3: 604-610.

What is peripheral artery disease (PAD)? Vascular Disease Foundation website. Available at: Updated May 11, 2012. Accessed May 9, 2013.

11/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Rooke TW, Hirsch AT, Misra S, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (updating the 2005 guideline): a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2011;124(18):2020-2045.


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