It’s dramatic when someone has a heart attack on television or in the movies. But in real life, symptoms can be more subtle and difficult to identify. And because heart attack and angina symptoms are so similar, it may be hard to tell what's going on.
But knowing the differences -- and the reasons behind them -- can result in seeking treatment sooner, and living longer.
If you have diabetes, you're more likely to get a worse case of peripheral artery disease that improves less with treatment.
When atherosclerosis narrows the long arteries of the legs, your leg muscles don't get enough blood flow. As a result, you may feel muscle pain. It usually comes on with exercise and stops when you rest.
The tests you'll take to see if you have peripheral artery disease are simple and painless.
Doctors usually start by checking your "ankle-brachial index," which compares your blood pressure at your ankle and upper arm. Those measurements should be about the same. If your blood pressure in your ankle is a lot lower, you may have peripheral artery disease.
If your case is severe, you may take a type of X-ray called an angiogram to see exactly where the blockage is. Your doctor will inject a dye into a blood vessel to help show what's going on.
You can do a lot to stop peripheral artery disease in its tracks, such as:
The drug cilostazol eases symptoms in many people. Pentoxifylline is another that can improve blood flow in people with poor circulation. Doctors may also prescribe aspirin or other anticlotting drugs.
For severe peripheral artery disease, your doctor may recommend surgery or less invasive procedures to bypass a blocked artery and restore blood flow.