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What is calcification of the arteries?

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Quick Answer

Vascular calcification, or calcification of the arteries, occurs when excessive calcium builds up in the arteries, according to Healthline. Although sometimes harmless, the condition can affect blood vessels and disrupt organ function.

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As a result of calcification, arterial and aortic elasticity decreases, explains the American Heart Association. Potential outcomes of vascular calcification include cardiac hypertrophy, hypertension, congenital heart failure, aortic stenosis, and myocardial and lower limb ischemia.

Often considered a normal part of the aging process, vascular calcification can also be the result of injury and autoimmune or genetic disorders impacting the skeletal system and its connecting tissues, reports Healthline. Kidney, brain and breast infections can also cause vascular calcification, as can hypercalemia, osteoporosis and other calcium metabolism disorders.

Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease commonly develop vascular calcification, notes the National Institutes of Health. Poorer outcomes accompany the condition in kidney patients.

Doctors typically diagnose vascular calcification with X-rays or blood tests, indicates Healthline. The doctor may also order a biopsy to test the calcium deposits for cancer.

Calcification is difficult to detect, as the condition does not present symptoms, warns Healthline. Regular medical follow-up is necessary for the treatment and prevention of calcification. The severity of the vascular calcification at the time of diagnosis is a factor in the treatment prognosis.

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