Atherosclerosis (sometimes called “hardening” or “clogging” of the arteries) is the buildup of cholesterol, fatty cells and inflammatory deposits (called plaque) on the inner walls of the arteries that restrict blood flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries in the heart, legs, brain, kidneys and other organs.
The type of atherosclerosis known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and lower extremity vascular disease occurs in the vessels that carry blood to the arms and . In healthy arteries, a smooth lining prevents blood from clotting and promotes steady blood flow. In PAD/PVD, the arteries slowly become narrowed or blocked when plaque gradually forms inside the artery walls. If the arteries become narrowed or blocked, blood cannot get through to nourish the tissues, causing the muscles of the lower extremities to cramp and lose strength. This process of cramping in the legs when walking is called “intermittent claudication.”
Blockage in arteries to the kidneys and intestines can lead to poor blood flow to these organs and ultimately tissue damage.The rate at which atherosclerosis progresses varies with each individual and depends on many factors, including where in the body the plaque has formed and the person’s overall health.
Atherosclerosis treatments include lifestyle changes, medications and procedures, both nonsurgical and surgical.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Atherosclerosis/Peripheral Arterial Disease/Peripheral Vascular Disease
Lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes can reduce your risk factors that lead to development of atherosclerosis or plaque blocking your arteries. Changes you can make to reduce your risk include:
May be recommended to treat conditions such as high blood pressure (anti-hypertensive medications) or high cholesterol (statin medications).
When lifestyle changes and medication may not be enough to improve your symptoms, or if your disease has advanced, your physician may recommend surgical or minimally invasive treatments. The choice of the treatment depends upon the pattern and extent of the blockages as well as other factors, such as your general health and the presence of other medical conditions.
Doctors vary in quality due to differences in training and experience; hospitals differ in the number of services available. The more complex your medical problem, the greater these differences in quality become and the more they matter.
Clearly, the doctor and hospital that you choose for complex, specialized medical care will have a direct impact on how well you do. To help you make this choice, please review our Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Outcomes.
Choosing a doctor to treat your vascular disease depends on where you are in your diagnosis and treatment. The following Heart and Vascular Institute Sections and Departments treat patients with all types of vascular disease, including blood clotting disorders:
Section of Vascular Medicine: for evaluation, medical management or interventional procedures to treat vascular disease. In addition, the Non-Invasive Laboratory includes state-of-the art computerized imaging equipment to assist in diagnosing vascular disease, without added discomfort to the patient. Call Vascular Medicine Appointments, toll-free 800-223-2273, extension 44420 or request an appointment online.
Department of Vascular Surgery: surgery evaluation for surgical treatment of vascular disease, including aorta, peripheral artery, and venous disease. Call Vascular Surgery Appointments, toll-free 800-223-2273, extension 44508 or request anappointment online.
You may also use our MyConsult second opinion consultation using the Internet.
The Heart and Vascular Institute also has specialized centers and clinics to treat certain populations of patients:
Learn more about experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular and arterial disease.
If you need more information, click here to contact us, chat online with a nurse or call the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Resource & Information Nurse at 216.445.9288 or toll-free at 866.289.6911. We would be happy to help you.
Additional information about vascular treatment options can be found at:
Diagnostic tests are used to diagnose your abnormal heartbeat and the most effective treatment method.
Our webchats and video chats give patients and visitors another opportunity to ask questions and interact with our physicians.
*A new browser window will open with this link. The inclusion of links to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on those websites nor any association with their operators.
Our outcomes speak for themselves. Please review our facts and figures and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
© Copyright 1995-2020 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.