Doctors use an array of clinical tests to rule out other pathologies and diagnose peripheral vascular disease. (Learn more about how doctors diagnose PVD here.) After deciding on the correct diagnosis, it is important to begin a treatment and management program to slow the progression of the disease. Courses of treatment involve a multi-pronged attack and include lifestyle changes, treating root causes and dealing with secondary problems.
While monitoring the progression of the disease is the job of the physician, it is the patient’s responsibility to cooperate with and follow their doctor’s suggestions. Returning to a lifestyle that promotes poor health can slow recovery and, possibly, lead to more serious health problems later. Management of peripheral vascular disease requires diligence and determination to overcome the pain and lead an active healthy life.
If your doctor diagnoses you with peripheral vascular disease, he or she will suggest several things to manage the disease. These suggestions will be based upon the severity of your disease.
One of the most important management tactics will be reducing risk factors. Risk factors are variables that make someone more susceptible to disease; there are several risk factors for PVD. It is important to know that risk factors are not causes of disease, merely that they increase the likelihood of contraction. Doctors will suggest that risk factors such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking be stopped immediately. It will also be suggested that an appropriate diet be eaten.
PVD can be caused by other diseases, so treatment for those underlying causes would have to begin immediately. Learn about causes of peripheral vascular disease here.
Also, an acceptable exercise regimen will be suggested. This regimen should be supervised by a health care professional and include at least three days per week of activity performed until the onset of intermittent claudication. The overall goal of an exercise program will be to prolong the period prior to onset of pain.
For patients affected by PVD, medications may be prescribed. Medications may fall into several categories depending on your specific cause. Doctors may prescribe anti-platelet drugs, anticoagulants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, calcium channel blockers and vitamins or a combination of these drugs.
Peripheral vascular disease can cause secondary symptoms that must be dealt with in a treatment program. Patients with PVD may experience vascular ulcers or wounds on the skin that, due to the lack of circulation, do not heal properly. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is often used to aid in the healing of these symptoms. This treatment involves breathing 100 percent oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber pressurized to two or three times the normal atmospheric pressure. Another treatment may involve compression therapy, in which a garment is worn around the affected extremity, and a pump inflates the garment, applying pressure at mixed intervals and stimulating circulation.
For more serious cases of PVD, invasive procedures and surgeries may be required. A few examples of these are angioplasty and stenting, endarterectomy and grafting or bypassing. Angioplasty is a procedure in which a catheter is used to insert a stent (a wire mesh tube) in the affected vessel. Endarterectomy is when a surgeon cleans out the buildup of plaque from the artery. Grafting and bypass are performed by using either a piece of replacement or artificial blood vessel to replace a failing portion of a vein or artery.
Mayo Clinic: Peripheral Vascular Disease Treatment
American Academy of Family Physicians: Peripheral Vascular Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment
American Academy of Family Physicians: Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease