Atheromatosis leads to different symptoms depending on its severity and localization. It usually exists undetected for years before the first symptoms appear. Only when vessels are constricted or blocked by the deposits do symptoms appear.
A common complex of symptoms that can occur at the bottom of an atheromatosis is angina pectoris. A narrowing of the small coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood causes seizure-like symptoms consisting of shortness of breath, chest tightness, stabbing pain, panic and sweating. These symptoms can occur at rest or after exercise.
If one or more of these vessels is completely blocked, a heart attack occurs. This is manifested by persistent pain in the chest, which can radiate into the left arm. This is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, sweating or vomiting.
Atheromatosis can affect other vessels apart from the coronary arteries, such as the carotid arteries (Arteria carotis communis). In most cases, symptoms do not develop until the atheromatosis is already very pronounced and the inside of the vessel becomes increasingly narrow. Such a narrowing of the carotid arteries, also known as carotid stenosis, can be noticeable through dizziness and fainting spells.
Another possible complication is temporary blindness in the eye of the affected side. This painless blindness, which passes by itself, is called amaurosis fugax. However, the amaurosis fugax should not be taken lightly.
It is an urgent warning sign of an imminent stroke and should therefore lead to immediate treatment of the vasoconstriction. A so-called TIA – transitory ischaemic attack – which is similar to a stroke, can also occur as a complication of a narrowing of the carotid arteries. It is characterised by symptoms such as speech disorders, paralysis of the arms or legs on one side, impaired vision and loss of consciousness.
Unlike a stroke, however, the symptoms are temporary and not as severe. TIA should also be clarified immediately, as the risk of a stroke is very high in its further course. Finally, atheromatosis can also affect the vessels in the legs and feet and lead to circulatory problems there. Depending on its severity, these are characterized by pain when walking, cold feet and legs, poorly healing wounds on the feet and a shortening of the walking distance. Those affected have to take breaks more often and cannot walk as far as before.
In principle, there are various special therapeutic approaches for atheromatous diseases, which depend on the disease, as well as general measures. The general measures include first of all the reduction or elimination of factors that promote and worsen atheromatosis. The most important measure is a complete cessation of tobacco consumption.
In addition, weight reduction should be carried out in cases of overweight. As far as nutrition is concerned, a Mediterranean diet with good oils, such as olive oil, and lots of vegetables is particularly recommended in the case of atheromatosis. It has a positive effect on the blood vessels and improves the fat values in the blood sustainably.
Furthermore, moderate endurance training, such as 20 minutes jogging three times a week, is important to improve the blood circulation in the organs and tissues. Blood-thinning drugs such as ASA or clopidogrel can also be used to minimize the risk of clots and heart attacks. So-called statins are used to control the fat balance so that the LDL value can be adjusted within a target range depending on the risk of the person concerned and the symptoms.
This cholesterol-fat value should be between <160- <170 depending on the patient. Other risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are also treated with medication so that they do not worsen the atheromatosis. In the case of pre-existing conditions, such as stroke, heart attack, chronic kidney failure or arterial occlusive disease, special therapies adapted to the clinical picture are used. These therapies usually also consist of anticoagulant drugs on the one hand and vasodilating interventions, such as stent implantation, on the other. The aim is always to ensure good blood circulation in the organs or tissues and to dilate the narrowed vessels again.