Early stages of atherosclerosis often do not develop with symptoms. Symptoms may first appear when you’re under physical or emotional stress — times when the body needs more oxygen.
What symptoms does atherosclerosis cause?
Atherosclerosis leads to poor oxygen-rich blood supply, as well as symptoms that can affect your quality of life. Symptoms depend on which arteries are affected and how much blood flow is blocked.
- Chest pain (angina), cold sweats, dizziness, extreme tiredness, heart palpitations (feeling that your heart is racing), shortness of breath, nausea and weakness are all symptoms of coronary heart disease.
- Pain, aching, heaviness, or cramping in the legs when walking or climbing stairs are the main symptoms of peripheral artery disease. The symptoms also go away after rest.
- Problems with thinking and memory, weakness or numbness on one side of the body or face, and vision trouble are all early symptoms of vertebral artery disease. Transient ischemic attack (TIA), commonly called a mini-stroke, is a more serious symptom.
- Severe pain following meals, weight loss, and diarrhea are symptoms of mesenteric artery of the intestines.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) is an early warning sign that a man may be at higher risk for atherosclerosis and its complications. If you have ED, talk with your healthcare team about your risk of plaque buildup,
You may not notice other symptoms until plaque buildup causes serious problems. Seeing your doctor regularly is important, as they may be able to find plaque buildup before it gets serious. For example:
- Plaque buildup in the arteries of the neck (carotid artery disease) can cause a bruit. This is a whooshing sound that your doctor hears when using a stethoscope. Severe symptoms of a bruit include a transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- Using a stethoscope, doctors may hear a bruit in your belly, which is an early sign of plaque buildup in the arteries that deliver blood to the kidneys (renal artery stenosis). As the disease worsens, it can cause high blood pressure, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea (feeling sick to the stomach), swelling in the hands or feet, and itchiness or numbness.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and whether you have risk factors of atherosclerosis.