Causes, signs and management of arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis is one of the most common vascular diseases; it develops due to deposition of cholesterol plaques on the inner endothelial lining of the arteries, leading to thickening and hardening of the arterial wall as well as loss of its normal elasticity and narrowing of the arterial lumen.
Arteriosclerosis develops due to multiple factors, which coordinate (two factors or more) together to cause arteriosclerosis. These factors include the following:
- Long-term uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
Increased blood pressure over 140/100 mmHg.
- Marked obesity.
- Heavy smoking.
- Lack of exercise or physical activity.
- Continuous exposure to emotional stress.
- Positive family history.
The associated clinical manifestations of arteriosclerosis include the following:
- Mild to moderate pain in the left shoulder and epigastric area; this pain is spontaneously relieved after few minutes of rest.
- Occasional chest tightness.
- Weakness and fatigue.
- Numbness of the lower extremities and face.
- Lower limb swelling; especially in the morning after waking up.
- Dizziness and confusion.
- Blurred vision.
- Slurred speech and speaking difficulties.
- Lack of concentration.
Proper diagnosis and evaluation of arteriosclerosis require doing some investigations; they include:
- Electrocardiography (ECG).
- Stress electrocardiography.
- Angiography with color Doppler study.
- Blood cholesterol level.
- In some cases cardiac catheterization may be required for diagnosis and evaluation.
Management of arteriosclerosis includes the following choices:
- Life style modification: it involves following low-cholesterol diet, quit of smoking and doing some exercise regularly.
- Thrombolytic therapy: it includes anti-cholesterol drugs, aspirin and antihypertensive drugs (beta blockers or calcium channel blockers).
- Angioplasty by cardiac catheterization: it includes insertion of arterial stent in the narrow part of the artery.