What are the Warning Signs of Clogged Arteries? | USA Vascular Centers

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What Are Warning Signs of Clogged Arteries?

signs of clogged arteries

An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your legs, arms, and other parts of your body. Blood will flow freely throughout your body if your arteries are healthy. 

Plaque can build up in your arteries and restrict blood flow. There are several warning indications you should be aware of that indicate that you may have clogged arteries. When the arteries in your feet, legs, and other extremities become clogged, you may develop a number of issues.

Clogged arteries are most often caused due to the buildup of cholesterol-rich fatty deposits in arteries, called plaque. This waxy substance sticks to arterial walls, making them harder and more narrow, a condition known as atherosclerosis. 

Atherosclerosis can then lead to many complications, including peripheral artery disease, or PAD. This condition is characterized by plaque that has accumulated in the arteries and narrowed the inner passageway. With less room to move throughout the vascular system, blood flow to the limbs—particularly the lower extremities—becomes impeded.

At USA Vascular Centers, our board-certified vascular doctors are renowned for their expertise in diagnosing and treating PAD. If you’re concerned that you may have symptoms of clogged arteries, we encourage you to talk to one of our caring physicians. We offer leading PAD diagnosis tests and treatments to help take care of a PAD diagnosis so that you can get back to doing what you love. 

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What Causes Clogged Arteries?

Multiple factors come into play when it comes to what causes clogged arteries, but plaque is the main culprit. Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. These muscular vessels expand and contract to accommodate different blood pressures, and in healthy arteries, the artery walls are smooth and elastic.

Over time a person’s genetics and lifestyle choices can cause both injury to the artery walls and an excess of cholesterol, fat, calcium, fibrin, and cellular waste—the building blocks of plaque—to accumulate in the blood.1 

The combination of damage to the artery walls as a result of high blood pressure and increased plaque flowing through the arteries causes clogged arteries.2 An increase in plaque buildup makes the arteries stiffer and causes poor circulation, which then puts them at an even higher risk of accumulating plaque. It’s a vicious cycle, but understanding the risk factors and doing everything you can to manage your overall health goes a long way toward promoting arterial health.1

Risk Factors of Clogged Arteries Include: 

  • Eating a diet high in cholesterol, processed food, and saturated and trans fats. 
  • Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High blood sugar level
  • Stress
  • Cigarette smoking 
  • Being an overweight older adult 
  • Genetics 

Common Symptoms of Clogged Arteries and PAD 

You may be asking yourself, “What does a clogged artery feel like?” Symptoms for each type of arterial or vascular disease can vary depending on which part of the body is affected. Coronary artery disease can present as pressure or pain in the chest, for example, while carotid artery disease may cause symptoms such as a severe headache, loss of balance, or dizziness.3 Pay attention to anything that feels strange or abnormal about your body and bring any concerns to your doctor to be evaluated for symptoms of clogged arteries. 

With peripheral artery disease, cramping leg pain, which is called “intermittent claudication,” is one of the most common symptoms of clogged arteries in the legs. Many patients feel the effects of intermittent claudication in the calf, leading to pain in the legs while walking. The pain can also occur while climbing stairs, jogging or running, and it goes away with rest. Other symptoms of clogged arteries in the legs include numbness, tingling, poor wound healing, hair loss on legs or feet, discolored skin, and slowed toenail growth.

When the blockage is severe, the person experiences claudication pain even at rest. This is a symptom of significant plaque in the arteries, and it typically indicates an advanced stage of PAD. In both the Fontaine and Rutherford classifications of PAD, both of which are used by the medical community to help diagnose the severity of a patient’s condition, rest pain comes right before the final stages of PAD

The final stage is the most serious: non-healing ulcers, gangrene, and limb death, which may lead to amputation.7 Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to prevent your PAD from progressing to this final stage.

Diagnosing PAD and Clogged Arteries in the Legs

So, how can you tell if your arteries are clogged? The simplest test for diagnosing clogged arteries as a result of PAD is to check the pulse in the feet. There should be two pulses that can be easily detected by a trained physician. If a pulse is not detected in one or both feet, an ankle-brachial index test is the next step of PAD screening wherein the doctor will observe and compare the blood pressure of your arm and leg.

If needed, imaging techniques such as an angiogram, MRI, or doppler ultrasound may be conducted. At USA Vascular Centers, our highly qualified doctors diagnose PAD with either an ankle-brachial index test or an angiogram, which involves injecting contrast dye into the blood vessels and using X-ray imaging to locate any blocked areas.

Treatment Options for PAD & Plaque Buildup in the Legs

You may see articles floating around the web that claim to show you how to reverse clogged arteries naturally. However, it is not possible to completely reverse clogged arteries naturally.8 Making changes such as quitting smoking, eating a nutritious diet, reducing stress, and beginning an exercise program may help slow or stop the progression of PAD. While there is no way to reverse plaque buildup naturally, there is treatment for clogged arteries

At USA Vascular Centers, our highly skilled doctors perform three minimally invasive PAD treatments: 

  • Angioplasty: This minimally invasive procedure uses a balloon-tipped catheter to open up narrowed or blocked arteries, promoting better blood circulation. Peripheral angioplasty is used to treat plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) in the arteries carrying blood to  the lower extremities
  • Stent placement: In this minimally invasive procedure, an angioplasty is performed to open the arteries before a mesh stent is placed to keep the artery from narrowing again.
  • Atherectomy: An atherectomy involves using a catheter tipped with a laser or tiny blade to cut plaque into pieces. To keep the pieces of plaque from traveling through the bloodstream, they are collected in a special chamber on the catheter and removed from the body. 

These non-surgical procedures are done in an outpatient setting and don’t require stitches, allowing you to recover in the comfort of your home. 

Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Doctors

At USA Vascular Centers, we offer in-person or online health consultations for PAD treatment. You can have your PAD symptoms evaluated by one of our specialists through a video call from your phone, or by accessing our specialized video calling app that runs on all mobiles, laptops, tablets, and desktops. You don’t need to have any specialized hardware or software for these consultations. If you wish to visit one of our conveniently located centers from out of town, we offer lodging options that make it easy for you to seek the treatment you need. 

Do you want lasting relief from painful symptoms of PAD? If you notice any signs of clogged arteries, schedule a consultation online or call us at 888.773.2193 today. Discuss your clogged artery treatment options in the familiarity of your own home or in one of our state-of-the-art outpatient centers. With our clogged arteries treatment, we look forward to helping you live your most rewarding life.

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Sources Cited

[1] Parker, Hilary. “Clogged Arteries (Arterial Plaque) – Causes, Dangers, Tests, Treatment.” WebMD. WebMD. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/clogged-arteries-arterial-plaque.

[2] “How High Blood Pressure Can Affect the Body.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, January 14, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868.

[3] “Arterial (Artery) Disease.” Arterial (Artery) Disease | Frankel Cardiovascular Center | Michigan Medicine. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.umcvc.org/conditions-treatments/arterial-artery-disease.

[4] “Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).” Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) | Frankel Cardiovascular Center | Michigan Medicine. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.umcvc.org/conditions-treatments/coronary-artery-disease-cad.

[5] “Cerebrovascular (Carotid) Disease.” Cerebrovascular (Carotid) Disease | Frankel Cardiovascular Center | Michigan Medicine. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.umcvc.org/conditions-treatments/cerebrovascular-carotid-disease.

[6] “Renal Vascular Disease.” Renal Vascular Disease | Frankel Cardiovascular Center | Michigan Medicine. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.umcvc.org/conditions-treatments/renal-vascular-disease.

[7] “Treatment Strategies for Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).” Treatment Strategies for Patients With Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) | Effective Health Care (EHC) Program. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/products/peripheral-artery-disease-treatment/research-protocol.

[8] Hoffman, Matthew. “Cholesterol and Artery Plaque Buildup.” WebMD. WebMD. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/cholesterol-and-artery-plaque-buildup.

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