The initiating event of atherogenesis is thought to be an injury to the vessel wall resulting in endothelial dysfunction. This is followed by key features of atherosclerotic plaque formation such as inflammatory responses, cell proliferation and remodeling of the vasculature, finally leading to vascular lesion formation, plaque rupture, thrombosis and tissue infarction. A causative relationship exists between these events and oxidative stress in the vessel wall. Besides leukocytes, vascular cells are a potent source of oxygen-derived free radicals. Oxidants exert mitogenic effects that are partially mediated through generation of growth factors. Mitogens, on the other hand, are potent stimulators of oxidant generation, indicating a putative self-perpetuating mechanism of atherogenesis. Oxidants influence the balance of the coagulation system towards platelet aggregation and thrombus formation. Therapeutic approaches by means of antioxidants are promising in both experimental and clinical designs. However, additional clinical trials are necessary to assess the role of antioxidants in cardiovascular disease.