Medication for Lower Extremity Arterial Disease

NYU Langone doctors may prescribe medication to manage high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and uncontrolled diabetes, all of which can contribute to lower extremity arterial disease.

Your doctor works closely with you to find the most effective combination of medications and helps you manage them. Taking medication for the condition may be a lifelong commitment. 

Medication often enhances other treatments for lower extremity arterial disease, including lifestyle changes and minimally invasive surgery.

Managing Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, indicates that your heart is working hard to pump blood through narrowed or blocked arteries and veins. High blood pressure can be a warning sign that you have lower extremity arterial disease. If you have hypertension, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following medications to manage the condition.


Diuretics eliminate sodium and water from the body, improving kidney function. Healthy kidneys filter blood to remove waste and make urine. When the arteries near the kidneys are blocked, the kidneys may not function well, raising blood pressure levels. NYU Langone doctors often prescribe a medication from a class of diuretics called thiazides to manage high blood pressure. 

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help block the body’s production of a hormone that narrows blood vessels. Blocking the hormone enables the vessels to open, reducing the work required of the heart, increasing blood flow, and lowering blood pressure. 

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers

Like ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers help prevent blood vessels from narrowing, reducing the heart’s workload. 

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers slow the absorption of calcium in the heart muscles and the walls of the blood vessels, allowing them to relax and leaving more room for blood to flow. These medications may also slow a person’s heart rate. 

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers block the effects of the hormone adrenaline on nerve impulses in the heart. This allows the heart to beat more slowly and the blood vessels to relax. For best results, beta blockers are almost always prescribed with other blood pressure medications.

Other Medications 

If high blood pressure does not improve after taking a combination of these medications, NYU Langone doctors may prescribe other medications. They may include alpha blockers, which reduce the effects of chemicals in the body that narrow blood vessels; alpha–beta blockers, which slow the heart rate to reduce the amount of blood pumped through blood vessels; central-acting agents, which relax the nervous system to prevent a heart rate increase and blood vessel narrowing; and vasodilators, which prevent arteries from narrowing. 

NYU Langone doctors may also recommend a low daily dose of aspirin to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. 

Managing Cholesterol Levels

Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels can lead to full or partial blockage of arteries, a leading risk factor for lower extremity arterial disease. If you have the condition, along with unhealthy cholesterol levels, your NYU Langone physician may recommend one or more of the following medications.


Statins block a substance the liver uses to make cholesterol. These medications also help the body reabsorb cholesterol from plaque buildup inside arteries.

Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

These medications lower cholesterol levels by limiting the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. 

Controlling Diabetes

People with uncontrolled diabetes are prone to blockages in leg arteries. Proper management depends on the type a person has. People with type 1 diabetes, for instance, must take insulin, which is given by injection, because their bodies do not produce this substance naturally. Some people with type 2 diabetes, in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly, can manage the condition by eating well and exercising regularly. Others with type 2 diabetes may need to combine a healthy lifestyle with medications—taken by mouth or injection—to keep blood sugar at healthy levels.

If you have diabetes and have been diagnosed with lower extremity arterial disease, you and your doctor can find the right combination of medications for you.

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