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Peripheral Vascular Disease (Holistic)

About This Condition

Keep blood flowing freely through your legs and other parts of your body. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Support your circulation

    Ask your healthcare provider for advice on restoring or maintaining good circulation by exercising, avoiding prolonged standing or sitting, and using compression stockings

  • Discover inositol hexaniacinate

    Take 1,200 mg a day of this nutritional supplement to help prevent and treat skin ulcers caused by peripheral vascular disease

  • Say good-bye to smoking

    Avoid the damaging effects of nicotine on blood flow by kicking the habit


About This Condition

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to a variety of conditions that primarily affect the arteries of the body, with the exception of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. (Those are covered in the article on cardiovascular disease.) The most common areas for PVD are the arteries of the legs and upper arms, the carotid (neck) arteries, the abdominal aorta and its branches, and the renal (kidney) arteries. 

The cause of most types of PVD is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which itself has many causes. Conditions affecting the veins, such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids, are not usually included in PVD.  

PVD of the carotid arteries is a major cause of stroke. Intermittent claudication refers to pain in the lower legs after walking short distances and is caused by PVD of the leg arteries. One cause of erectile dysfunction may be PVD of the penis. Raynaud’s disease is a painful condition caused by spasms of arteries after exposure to cold. Thromboangiitis obliterans (TAO), also known as Buerger’s disease, is an uncommon PVD that occurs in both arteries and veins. This condition causes tender areas of inflammation in the arms or legs, followed by cold hands or feet.

Aneurysm is a ballooning of an artery due to weakening of the blood vessel walls. Aneurysms may be an inherited disorder or may be due to atherosclerosis.1, 2 The most common aneurysm is abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), which occurs in the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the lower body. AAA is much more common in men, and risk increases with age. Large AAAs are usually surgically repaired because they can undergo life-threatening ruptures.


People with peripheral vascular disease may have symptoms of pain, aching, cramping, or fatigue of the muscles in the affected leg that are relieved by rest and worsened by elevation. Other people with peripheral vascular disease may have swollen feet and ankles accompanied by a dull ache made worse with prolonged standing and relieved by elevation. People with chronic peripheral vascular disease may have darkened areas of skin, leg ulcers, and varicose veins.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

People with TAO are usually heavy smokers, and this is considered a major cause of the disease.3 It is important for people with TAO to quit smoking.

Holistic Options

Intravenous chelation therapy has been reported to be an effective treatment for PVD.4, 5 A partially controlled study reported improvements after ten chelation treatments.6 However, two double-blind studies found no difference between chelation therapy and a placebo in patients with intermittent claudication.7, 8

Preliminary reports suggest acupuncture may reduce pain and improve blood flow in TAO,9, 10 but controlled studies are needed to better evaluate these claims.


What Are Star Ratings?
Supplement Why
2 Stars
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
1,200 mg a day of inositol hexaniacinate
Vitamin B3 may help prevent and treat skin ulcers caused by peripheral vascular disease.

One controlled study compared a type of niacin (vitamin B3) known as inositol hexaniacinate to the drug pyridinolcarbamate for the treatment of skin ulcers caused by PVD. A placebo was not included in this trial, and both 1.2 grams daily of inositol hexaniacinate and 1.5 grams daily of the drug produced beneficial results in about half of the patients.

1 Star
Folic Acid
Refer to label instructions
As with other vascular diseases, people with thromboangiitis obliterans are more likely to have low levels of folic acid. Supplementing with folic acid may help correct a deficiency.

As with other vascular diseases, people with TAO are more likely to have high levels of homocysteine and low levels of folic acid. However, no research has tested folic acid as prevention or treatment for this disease.


1. Anderson LA. An update on the cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms. J Vasc Nurs 1994;12:95-100 [review].

2. MacSweeney ST, Powell JT, Greenhalgh RM. Pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysm. Br J Surg 1994;81:935-41 [review].

3. Szuba A, Cooke JP. Thromboangiitis obliterans. An update on Buerger's disease. West J Med 1998;168:255-60 [review].

4. Olszewer E, Carter JP. EDTA chelation therapy in chronic degenerative disease. Med Hypotheses 1988;27:41-9.

5. Chappell LT, Janson M. EDTA chelation therapy in the treatment of vascular disease. J Cardiovasc Nurs 1996;10:78-86.

6. Olszewer E, Sabbag FC, Carter JP. A pilot double-blind study of sodium-magnesium EDTA in peripheral vascular disease. J Natl Med Assoc 1990;82:173-7.

7. Guldager B, Jelnes R, Jorgensen SJ, et al. EDTA treatment of intermittent claudication—a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Intern Med 1992;231:261-7.

8. Van Rij AM, Solomon C, Packer SGK, Hopkins WG. Chelation therapy for intermittent claudication. A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Circulation 1994;90:1194-9.

9. Zheng P. Traditional Chinese medicine anesthesia in severe thromboangiitis obliterans. Report of 30 cases. Chin Med J (Engl) 1988;101(3):221-4.

10. Yang BH, Zhang SG. Study of thromboangiitis obliterans treated with “vascular no. 3” using Doppler ultrasound. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1989;9:596-8, 581 [in Chinese].


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