Atherosclerosis is a condition where plaque builds up inside your arteries causing them to harden. This buildup may cause a total or partial blockage of blood flow, which limits the oxygen reaching your organs, including the heart, brain, legs and arms. If the plaque bursts, a blood clot may form. Both scenarios can lead to a heart attack or stroke, or other serious diseases, such as coronary artery disease, angina, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and chronic kidney disease.
Certain conditions and behaviors contribute to atherosclerosis, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels and smoking. A physical exam, imaging scans and other diagnostic tests can help detect atherosclerosis; however, the condition is generally symptomless until an artery is substantially narrowed or totally blocked. In general, most patients are unaware of the condition until significant disease has already formed.
Symptoms depend on the location of your atherosclerosis:
In the arteries of your arms and legs
In the arteries leading to brain
In the arteries leading to kidneys
In your heart arteries