Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries). In atherosclerosis, 'plaque' accumulates in the wall of an artery. The plaque is made up of fatty material (including cholesterol), inflammatory cells, cellular waste products and calcium. As the plaque enlarges, it can cause narrowing or complete blockage of the affected artery. Pieces of plaque or clot can also break off and travel downstream to block the smaller arteries downstream.

Risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include smoking, diabetes, family history, advancing age, male gender, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Atherosclerosis affects the medium to large sized arteries in the body. Common territories to be affected are the coronary arteries (to the heart), the arteries supplying the legs, and the carotid arteries (in the neck).

Less commonly, atherosclerosis can affect the arteries supplying the arms, the visceral arteries (supplying the abdominal organs), and the renal arteries (supplying the kidneys).

Common Territories Affected by Atherosclerosis:

Aortoiliac (abdominal) and lower limb arterial disease:

Carotid (neck) arterial disease