Arm Artery Disease


Many people are aware that peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects the legs. However, a rarer form of PAD, arm artery disease, can affect the arms. When it occurs, the artery between the chest and your hand becomes blocked. Mild cases do not overtly exhibit symptoms, but the lack of blood and oxygen can increase the severity of the condition. 

By the age of 70, the risk of PAD is the same for both men and women, and a screening is recommended.

The most common symptoms are intermittent pain or claudication (IC), tightness, cramping, heaviness, or weakness. The discomfort or pain occurs when the arm is in use, but typically goes away when the arm muscles are at rest. As the disease worsens, the skin on the arm or hand may be pale and cool, hair and nails grow slowly, sores can appear on the fingers, and eventually gangrene may develop.

Arm artery disease is more likely to affect you if you smoke and are older than age 60. Other risk factors include having high cholesterol or high blood pressure. More rare causes of the disease are breast cancer radiation therapy, frostbite, and injuries, such as repeated injuries to the pad of your hand.

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the veins) is generally the main cause of arm artery disease. Additional causes can include diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as embolisms and thoracic outlet syndrome. Several uncommon conditions are:

  • Buerger’s Disease – Inflammation of the small blood vessels and nerves in your hands and feet that usually affects male smokers

  • Raynaud’s Disease – Blood vessels narrow, and fingers become cold and numb

  • Takayasu’s Disease – The immune system attacks the body’s organs or tissues, primarily affects young Asian women

  • Angiography (X-rays of an artery)

  • Chest or Neck X-rays

  • CT or CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography)

  • Duplex Ultrasound

  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

  • Segmental blood pressure readings along the hands, fingers, and arms

Treatment will be determined by the cause of your arm artery disease, the amount of blockage, and your general health.

  • Angioplasty Stenting – Angioplasty may be recommended to restore circulation in your arms. If needed, a tiny stent (mesh-metal tube) may also be inserted to ensure the narrowed area remains open. 

  • Endarterectomy/Bypass For more extensive blockages, a surgical endarterectomy is performed to remove plaque from the inner lining of the diseased artery. If a bypass is required, a detour would be created around the blocked artery with a synthetic tube or a vein from your body.

  • Injection An anesthetic injection will block certain hand nerves. If symptoms are relieved, a cervical sympathectomy by chemical injection or surgery, may be recommended.

  • Lifestyle – Help manage risk by reaching/maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, controlling blood cholesterol and fat levels, and quit smoking.

  • Medications – Medication may be prescribed to treat a high blood pressure condition.

You can depend on the expert team of medical professionals at Vascular Tyler to help you determine your best treatment options, based on your test results.\

For questions or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 903.533.8702.


The Patient Experience

Dr. Robbins looked at my imaging and made an appointment that same day for me to come in. At Vascular Tyler, it’s just like a family environment every time I come in here. If I have to go the doctor’s (office), this is where I want to go.
L. Cunningham, Patient
We don’t want to spend a whole lot of time with rehabilitation or in some sort of medical facility, so it was great discovering that there’s only little or no downtime. It was a matter of hours instead of days or weeks.
B. Finch, Patient
I had excruciating pain and was told I needed a knee replacement. But Dr. Robbins said I just need vascular surgery. They gave me relief from my pain, and they’re kind and interested in you as a patient and a person. This is the place to come.
M. Finch, Patient

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