Arm Artery Disease
Upper limb (arm) artery disease is a condition where an artery between the chest and the hand is blocked and does not supply blood to the arms. The narrowing or blockage of the artery may be caused due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up). The symptoms of arm artery disease include pain, discolouration of fingers, cramping, tightness, heaviness or weakness in your arm, bluish and slow-growing nails and in severe cases, gangrene. The risk factors for arm artery disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and age (older than 60 years).
Your doctor may order some of the following diagnostic tests to confirm arm artery disease:
- Duplex ultrasound
- Chest or neck X-rays
- Segmental blood pressures (measuring blood pressure along the arm)
- Angiography or magnetic resonance angiography (using X-rays or magnetic field to detect contrast dye injected into blood vessel)
- CT scan
The treatment of arm artery disease depends on the location and severity of the condition. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as exercising and cessation of smoking, and prescribe medication. When conservative methods do not alleviate your symptoms, your surgeon may perform angioplasty in which a catheter or a long, thin, flexible tube is guided through the artery to open up the blocked area by deflating a balloon attached to the catheter. A stent (small metal mesh) may be placed in the narrowed area to hold it open. In more severe cases, an alternate route may be created to bypass the blocked artery (bypass surgery) or an incision is made to remove the plaque (endarterectomy).