Arm Artery Disease

Arm artery disease is a circulatory disorder in which one or more of the arteries in the arm become narrow or blocked. The most common causes are plaque buildup over time or a sudden blockage.

Signs & symptoms

  • Arm discomfort or pain
  • Arm tightness, heaviness, cramping or weakness
  • Cool skin and lack of pulse
  • Pain and sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Pain or discomfort while exercising

Risk factors

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Lack of exercise


Diagnosis begins with a family history and readings to check blood pressure and temperature in both arms. Additional testing may include:

  • Segmental blood pressures (blood pressure readings along your arms, hands and fingers)
  • Duplex ultrasound
  • Chest or neck x-rays
  • Computerized axial tomography (CT or CAT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Angiography (x-rays of your arteries)

Arm Artery Disease


Treatment depends on the cause and severity of a patient’s arm artery disease.

Non- surgical treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle modification (smoking cessation and weight loss)
  • An anesthetic injection (sympathetic block)

Surgical procedures for advanced symptoms may include:

  • Angioplasty via catheter (inflate and deflate a special balloon to break up plaque)
  • Stent to hold the artery open
  • A bypass to create an alternative arterial path
  • Endarterectomy to remove plaque