Upper Extremity Disease

         Basic Facts

  • Upper extremity disease is the narrowing or blockage of arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the shoulder, arms and hands.
  • The primary cause of upper extremity disease is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of cholesterol and fat (plaque) on the artery walls.
  • Common first symptoms of upper extremity disease include arm weakness during exercise, pain in the fingers, or hypersensitivity to cold.
  • Upper extremity disease is a type of peripheral arterial disease, which is blockage of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the limbs, head and organs.

Upper Extremity Disease

In upper extremity disease, an artery between the chest and the hand becomes partially or completely blocked. While upper extremity disease can be acute, meaning that it comes on quickly, it is usually chronic, meaning it progresses slowly over a long period of time. 

One early symptom is pain when moving the arms. As the disease progresses, pain can occur in the arms at rest. In advanced stages, the disease may cause skin ulcers and cell death from lack of oxygen and nutrients.

Upper Extremity Disease FAQ