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Arteriosclerosis and Atherosclerosis

Introduction

Arteriosclerosis refers to the hardening of an artery wall, while Atherosclerosis refers to the narrowing of an artery due to the build-up of plaque. A patient may have hardened arteries without plaque, however atherosclerosis indicates the presence of arteriosclerosis.

Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs, limbs and other parts of your body. More commonly plaque can cause problems if it ruptures, sending debris into the arterial tree causing blockages downstream.

Causes

  • High blood pressure.
  • Smoking.
  • High bad cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Lifestyle.
  • Inflammation.
  • Lack of exercise.

Symptoms

  • Often asymptomatic.
  • Stroke or heart attack.
  • Limb pain, colour change, pins and needles, and weakness.

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination.
  • Ultrasound.
  • Ankle-Brachial index (ABI).
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • Echocardiography.
  • Stress test.
  • Cardiac catheterisation and angiogram.
  • CT Scan.
  • MRA.
  • Blood tests.

Treatment

  • Unless acutely symptomatic or blockage is severe, the mainstay of treatment is an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and medication.
  • Invasive treatment includes, stenting, stent-grafting, open surgical repair, bypass, endarterectomy and patching.