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Atherosclerosis


What is Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis usually known as hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis refers to the conditions that result from the deposition of fatty deposits along the inner walls of arteries. These deposits, along with resulting inflammatory action by the immune system, lead to narrowing and eventual blockage of the affected artery. This blockage interrupts the normal flow of blood, which, depending on which artery is affected, can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other serious medical problems.


Etiology:

Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may begin as early as childhood. Although the exact cause is unknown, researchers suspect that atherosclerosis starts with damage or injury to the inner layer of an artery. The damage may be caused by various factors, including:
§ High blood pressure
§ High cholesterol
§ An irritant, such as nicotine
§ Certain diseases, such as diabetes
Once the inner wall of an artery is damaged, blood cells called platelets often clump at the injury site to try to repair the artery. Over time, fatty deposits (plaques) made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products also accumulate and harden, narrowing the space in your arteries. Organs and tissues that are served by these narrowed vessels don't get an adequate supply of blood.
Eventually pieces of the fatty deposits may rupture and enter your bloodstream. This can cause a blood clot to form at the site and damage your organs, such as in a heart attack. A blood clot can also travel to other parts of your body and partially or totally block blood flow to another organ

Risk factors:

Hardening of the arteries occurs over time. In addition to simply getting older, factors that increase the risk of atherosclerosis include:
§ High blood pressure
§ High cholesterol
§ Diabetes
§ Obesity
§ Smoking
§ A family history of aneurysm or early heart disease

Treatments:


Ø Medication is unsatisfactory for treating atherosclerosis, since the damage has already been done.
Ø Anticoagulant drugs have been used to try to minimize secondary clotting and embolus formation.
Ø Vasodilator drugs are helpful in providing symptom relief, but are of no curative value.
Ø Surgical treatment is available for those unresponsive to medical treatment or in certain high-risk situations.
Ø Balloon angioplasty can open up narrowed vessels and promote an improved blood supply.
Ø The blood supply to the heart can also be restored by coronary artery bypass surgery.
Ø Large atheromatous and calcified arterial obstruction can be removed by endartectomy, and entire segments of diseased peripheral vessels can be replaced by woven plastic tube grafts.

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