Atherosclerosis is a disease affecting the arterial blood vessel and it is commonly referred to as a "hardening" or "furring" of the arteries. It is caused by the formation of multiple plaques within the arteries. Theses plaques begin to form when a vessel receives tiny injuries, usually at a point of branching. In turn these plaques gradually thicken and harden with fibrous material, cells, and other deposits, restricting the lumen (opening) of the vessel and reducing blood flow to the tissues, a condition known as ischemia.
Pathologically, the athermanous plaque is divided into three discrete components: The atheroma ("lump of porridge", from Athera,) is the nodular accumulation of a soft, flaky, yellowish material at the center of large plaques, composed of macrophages nearest the lumen of the artery, underlying areas of cholesterol crystals, and possibly also calcification at the outer base of older/more advanced lesions. The following terms are comparable, yet diverse, in both spelling and meaning, and can be effortlessly confused: arteriosclerosis, arteriolosclerosis and atherosclerosis.
Arteriosclerosis, is a all-purpose term describing any hardening (and loss of elasticity) of medium or large arteries ("Arterio" meaning artery and "sclerosis" meaning hardening), arteriolosclerosis is arteriosclerosis mainly affecting the arterioles (small arteries), atherosclerosis is a hardening of an artery in particular due to an atheromatous plaque ("athero" means "porridge"). Consequently, atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis ("hardening of the artery") results from a deposition of tough, rigid collagen inside the vessel wall and around the atheroma. This increases the stiffness, decreases the elasticity of the artery wall. Arteriolosclerosis (hardening of small arteries, the arterioles) is the product of collagen deposition, but also muscle wall thickening and deposition of protein ("hyaline"). Calcification, occasionally even...
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