When arteries lose their elasticity, become thick and hard, it leads to a condition called arteriosclerosis. In arteriosclerosis, there is gradual reduction in the blood flow due to changes in the arteries. It leads to various complications as oxygen-rich blood is reduced to the tissues and organs affected. When arteriosclerosis affects the heart arteries, it leads to coronary artery disease.
Affecting the smaller arteries arterioles and capillaries, arteriosclerosis reduces the supply of oxygenated blood and nutrients to the tissues and organs affected.
Since damage starts in the innermost part of the blood vessels, they do not show up in the beginning. However, as the condition progresses, there is degeneration of the artery walls and leads to thickening.
Types of arteriosclerosis
- Mönckeberg’s arteriosclerosis
- Hyperplastic arteriosclerosis
- Hyaline arteriosclerosis
Diagnosis of arteriosclerosis
Initial physical examination
- Examination of the pulse (low pulse or lack of pulse is an indicator)
- Decrease in blood pressure in the affected area
- Whooshing sounds felt upon examination with stethoscope
Conditions like Mönckeberg’s arteriosclerosis are common in people with high cholesterol and diabetes. Autonomic diabetic neuropathy is one of the causes for this condition. Arteriosclerosis is characterized by calcification of the blood vessels. It can affect the blood vessels of the lower limbs, and head and neck area and is known to cause nighttime leg cramps.
In case of both hyperplastic arteriosclerosis and hyaline arteriosclerosis, aging, diabetes, and hypertension are known risk factors. That is why initial physical examination is followed by certain blood tests like:
- Lipid profile test
- Fasting and postprandial blood sugar test
- Doppler ultrasound
- Stress test
- MRA of arteries
- Cardiac catheterization (in case arteriosclerosis is suspected in heart arteries)