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Arterial insufficiency is any condition that slows or stops the flow of blood through your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other places in your body.
One of the most common causes of arterial insufficiency is atherosclerosis , or "hardening of the arteries." Fatty material (called plaque) builds up on the walls of your arteries, causing them to become narrow and stiff . This makes it hard for bood to flow through your arteries.
Blood flow may be suddenly stopped due to a blood clot (also called embolus). The clot usually breaks off from the fatty material built up in the wall of an artery.
Symptoms depend on where your arteries become narrowed:
- If it affects your heart arteries, you may have chest pain or a heart attack.
- If it affects your brain arteries, you may have a stroke.
- If it affects the arteries that bring blood to your legs, you may have frequent leg cramping when you walk.
- If it affects the arteries in your belly area, you may have pain after you eat.
Aufderheide TP. Peripheral arteriovascular disease. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 85.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.