Treating Pad With Medication

Lifestyle changes provide the most effective peripheral artery disease (PAD) treatment. Some cases, however, require medication to control symptoms and reduce the risk of serious complications.

Talking to Your Doctor about PAD Treatment

Provide your doctor with a list of your current medication before starting medication for PAD. Include all prescription and non-prescription medicine as well as any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. Also inform your doctor of any allergies or existing health conditions.

If prescribed PAD medication, take medicine exactly as directed. Report any side effects, but do not stop taking medication without first consulting with your doctor.

Common Medication for PAD

PAD treatment includes controlling conditions that increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which causes plaque build-up in arteries. Plaque is a sticky substance composed of fat, cholesterol and other compounds. Blood cells called platelets can stick to plaque deposits and form blood clots.

Cholesterol-lowering medication is used in PAD treatment to reduce levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, which contributes to plaque build-up. PAD medication also includes high blood pressure medication, to reduce stroke and heart attack risk.

Blood thinning medications called antiplatelets are used in PAD treatment to reduce the risk of blood clots. Aspirin is an antiplatelet and may be prescribed as a medication for PAD. Never use aspirin as a blood thinner without first consulting with a doctor. Despite its ubiquitous nature, misused aspirin can have serious side effects.

Clopidogrel is a prescription blood thinner used as PAD medication. Like aspirin, clopidogrel is an antiplatelet. Do not mix clopidogrel with aspirin without consulting a doctor, as severe bleeding can result.

Anyone taking clopidogrel should report fever, sudden weakness or confusion to a medical professional immediately. Such symptoms may indicate thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura, a rare but dangerous side effect that causes blood clots in small blood vessels.

Treating Peripheral Artery Disease Leg Pain

Severe leg pain caused by peripheral artery disease can be treated with cilostazol. Cilostazol increases blood flow to the limbs, widens arteries and helps prevent blood clots. The medication reduces leg pain associated with PAD, allowing people to walk for longer periods without pain.

People with congestive heart failure or bleeding disorders cannot take cilostazol. Side effects of the PAD medication include diarrhea and headaches. If side effects interfere with PAD treatment, pentoxifylline can be used as a substitute for cilostazol. Pentoxifylline is a less effective medication for PAD, but has fewer side effects.


American Heart Association. (2011). Prevention and treatment of PAD. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from

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