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Atherosclerosis Symptoms and Signs

This page focuses on atherosclerosis symptoms and signs.
For more information on atherosclerosis, please visit our pages on What is Atherosclerosis, Causes of Atherosclerosis, and Atherosclerosis Reversal.

Atherosclerosis symptoms and signs generally depend on which arteries are affected. Some of the most commonly involved regions are the arteries of the legs, usually in the calf. In addition, arteries to the brain, kidneys, heart and abdominal aorta can also be involved.

Symptoms occur when blockage by the plaque is severe enough to restrict blood flow to an area. For example, when blood flow to the lower leg is restricted, the result is leg pain. In many cases, people with atherosclerosis do not show any symptoms until 40% of an artery is clogged with plaque.

Atherosclerosis Symptoms - the Heart Arteries

When the heart arteries are narrowed or blocked, the resulting disease is called coronary artery disease. Symptoms of this disease are usually brought on by physical exertion, exposure to cold weather, anger, or stress.

The most common symptoms include:
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or skipping heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness


Atherosclerosis Signs - the Brain Arteries

When the arteries that supply the brain with blood are narrowed or blocked, the resulting disease is called cerebrovascular disease which can cause transient ischemic attacks (TIA) and strokes.

Common symptoms may include:
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden muscle weakness
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Loss of vision in one eye


Atherosclerosis Signs - the Peripheral Arteries

Peripheral arteries are the arteries which are farthest from the heart (mouth, hands, and feet). When one of these arteries is narrowed or blocked, the resulting disease is called peripheral artery disease.

Common symptoms may include:
  • Pain, aching, cramps, numbness or sense of fatigue in the leg muscles (a condition called "intermittent claudication")
  • Hair loss
  • Thickened nails
  • Smooth and shiny skin surface
  • Skin cold to the touch
  • Gangrene

Related Topics

What is Atherosclerosis
Causes of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis Reversal

References (
University of Maryland Medical Center (

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