What Is the Definition of Atherosclerosis?


Quick Answer

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries become narrow as a result of gradual plaque accumulation, according to Mayo Clinic. As of 2015, the exact cause of atherosclerosis is unclear. However, the plaque buildup may occur following an arterial wall injury or damage, which may result from hypertension; inflammatory conditions such as arthritis; high body cholesterol; and conditions such as diabetes.

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Although some patients of atherosclerosis may not experience any symptoms of the condition such as those with mild atherosclerosis, advanced atherosclerosis may result in thoracic pain, leg numbness and weakness, sagging facial muscles, distorted speech and difficulty having sex, states Mayo Clinic. However, the symptoms vary with the type of affected arteries. To avoid possible complications such as peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease and coronary artery disease, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention when the symptoms appear.

To diagnose atherosclerosis, a doctor first reviews the patient's medical history and carries out a physical exam to determine the signs of the condition, explains Mayo Clinic. The doctor may order further diagnostic tests including blood tests, electrocardiogram, Doppler ultrasound, and cardiac catheterization and angiogram. The treatment for the condition depends on its severity and may range from diet change to surgeries such as bypass surgery and endarterectomy. Cholesterol medications, diuretics and calcium channel blockers are other treatment options.

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