What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a inflammatory condition of the arterial wall which is characterized by localized lipid rich deposits of atheroma (cholesterol containing leisons) that mostly remain silent until they become large to impair blood flow or until ulceration or erosion of the lesion results in obstruction or embolisation of the affected vessel.

Atherosclerosis is a condition that begins early in life mainly among people who are at high risk (eg cigarette smokers, familial hyperlipidaemia or hypertension). However the symptoms usually became evident in sixth, seventh or eighth decade.

Atherosclerosis may present as coronary heart disease (angina, MI, death), neurological (stroke and TIA) or peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication and limb ischaemia). These conditions may often coexist.

The symptoms in atherosclerosis may present as mild or severe forms.

A. Stable atherosclerotic plaques (early lesions) remains asymptomatic until they become large enough to obstruct arterial flow.

B. In advanced atherosclerosis ulceration or erosion occurs leading to partial or complete occlusion of the affected vessel. It is the common mechanism that underlies many of the acute manifestations of atherosclerotic vascular disease (eg lower limb ischaemia, myocardial infarction and stroke).

The number and complexity of arterial lesions increase with age and with certain risk factors but the rate of progress of individual lesions is variable. Some may develop the symptoms at an early age and some may not even develop the symptoms at all.

Do check your cholesterol level at regular intervals as it may give you the clue about the state of your arms. And if found elevated make no excuses in visiting your doctor. The doctor may prescribe some cholesterol lowering drugs.