Causes of arterial plaque include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes, according to WebMD. Arterial plaque can lead to heart attack, stroke, and serious infection in the legs and feet.
Plague that accumulates on the inner walls of the arteries is made of various substances that circulate in the blood, such as calcium, fat, cholesterol, cellular waste and blood-clotting material, explains WebMD. In response to this buildup, cells in the artery wall multiply and secrete substances that can worsen the state of clogged arteries.
In time, plaque deposits can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hardening or narrowing of the arteries, states Mayo Clinic. This can lead to decreased blood flow to the heart, brain and other organs, resulting in serious and life-threatening problems.
Mild atherosclerosis usually doesn't have any symptoms, notes Mayo Clinic. Moderate to severe atherosclerosis causes symptoms that depend on which arteries are clogged. Atherosclerosis of the heart arteries often causes chest pain, while atherosclerosis of the arteries leading to the brain can cause slurred speech or drooping facial muscles. Atherosclerosis in the arms or legs can cause pain in those areas, while atherosclerosis in the kidney arteries can cause high blood pressure and kidney failure.