This is an abbreviated version of the complete article.*
||The goal of treatment with medications is to prevent or treat a symptom or disease.
||Medications that treat vascular disorders include antihypertensives, which lower blood pressure; lipid-lowering drugs, which control high cholesterol and other blood fats; tobacco cessation (stop smoking) drugs; diabetes medications to control blood sugar; antiplatelets; and anticlotting drugs, which prevent problems from blood clots.
||The physician chooses the medication and the specific dose depending on many factors, including the patient's condition and lifestyle habits and known side effects of the drug.
The physician chooses the medication and the specific dose depending on many factors, including the patient's condition and lifestyle habits and known side effects of the drug.
Medications are chemicals that affect the body and its processes to treat or prevent a disease or symptom. Medications may be used together with other treatments or alone as an attempt to avoid surgical treatment.
Categories of medications that treat vascular disorders include:
The medication and the specific dose for any vascular condition should be discussed with the physician.
- Lipid-lowering drugs; and
- Anticlotting drugs.
WHEN IS THE TREATMENT INDICATED?
Medications may be prescribed or recommended to control symptoms of vascular conditions such as:
If a patient is undergoing a surgical or catheter-based procedure, a physician may prescribe medications such as anticoagulants to reduce the risk of complications.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure);
- High cholesterol and other blood fats; and
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) such as arm or leg artery disease.
Physicians consider many factors when prescribing medications, including gender, age, and interactions with other medications. For some conditions medications may not be indicated until the patient has tried lifestyle modifications for a certain period of time and has not experienced relief.
Because of possible interactions with other drugs, the patient should report any other medications that he or she is taking to a physician. Pregnant women should discuss with their physician whether they are eligible for medications.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
People with a known allergy or sensitivity to a drug are not eligible to take it.
Certain diseases or conditions such as liver disease may prohibit a patient from taking certain drugs.
RISK FACTORS FOR POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS
Factors that increase the chances of harmful reactions include:
WHAT TO EXPECT
- Taking several drugs simultaneously;
- Drinking alcoholic beverages;
- Taking certain medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) with grapefruit juice;
- Advanced age;
- Diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or depression; and
- Drug allergies.
Drugs can be administered in several ways, including:
The following categories of medications treat hypertension, high cholesterol, and PAD.
- Via injection;
- Sublingually (under the tongue);
- Transdermally (via a patch applied to the skin); and
- Via inhalation.
Antihypertensive drugs lower blood pressure by controlling blood vessel constriction (narrowing), increasing blood vessel dilation (widening), decreasing cardiac output, or all three. A single drug or combination of drugs may be recommended. Commonly prescribed antihypertensives include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors; and
- Calcium channel blockers.
Lowering high LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels is the primary target of lipid therapy. If lipid (blood fat) levels do not improve after 3 months of lifestyle changes, or if a person has coronary heart disease or blood lipid levels that are thought to be genetically determined, physicians may consider the following types of cholesterol-lowering drugs:
- Bile acid sequestrants; and
- Niacin, or nicotinic acid.
People who have a history of blood clots or are at risk for pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke may be prescribed anticlotting (also known as antithrombotic) drugs, including:
POST-TREATMENT GUIDELINES AND CARE
- Anticoagulants such as warfarin;
- Antiplatelet medications such as aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix); and
- Cilostazol (Pletal).
These drugs require medical supervision. The patient should not start or stop taking these medications without first consulting a physician. Additionally, the patient should ask questions or request written instructions if he or she does not understand how to follow the treatment plan. Not taking or missing doses of prescribed drug treatment may not relieve or treat the person's disease, and can result in potentially life-threatening occurrences such as stroke.
The patient should tell the physician if any side effects develop from medication therapy.
The physician may recommend follow-up blood tests during treatment with medications.
In many cases, the physician will recommend that the patient continue following healthy lifestyle habits during treatment with medications. These lifestyle changes can help the medications work better to reduce the risk of complications from vascular diseases and include:
- Quitting smoking;
- Drinking alcohol in moderation;
- Losing weight,
- Eating a diet low in fat, cholesterol, and calories; and
Medical Review Date: November 24, 2009
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