The term atheromatosis is often very misunderstood. Atheromas are benign soft tissue tumours as well as fatty deposits in the walls of arterial vessels. The term atheromatosis refers to the occurrence of atheromatous plaques, also called atheromas, in the walls of arteries.
These are cholesterol-containing deposits on the innermost layer of the arteries that can lead to blockages in the vessels. This causes vascular blockages, which lead to organ damage in the area supplied by the arteries. The terms atheromatosis, arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis are often used synonymously, although strictly speaking this is not correct. The terms atherosclerosis and atheromatosis are most likely to be used synonymously. Atherosclerosis simply refers to the hardening of the artery wall, regardless of the cause, whereas atheromatosis refers to cholesterol-containing deposits in the vessel walls.
There are various causes of atheromatosis. In the development of atheromatosis, a distinction is made between major and minor risk factors. Some of the factors can be influenced.
The main risk factors for atheromatosis include tobacco consumption, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and hyperlipoproteinemia. Hyperlipoproteinemia is an increase in LDL cholesterol. This should be below 160mg/dl in the normal range.
In the case of previous illnesses, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, even lower values are aimed for. Furthermore, a decrease in HDL cholesterol is a negative influence factor for atheromatosis. This may sound contradictory, but it can be explained quite simply: HDL cholesterol is the so-called “good cholesterol” that is transported from the blood vessels to the organs for further processing.
It is therefore not deposited in the walls of the blood vessels. The lower the HDL and the higher the LDL, the greater the probability of vascular deposits. Another major risk factor for atheromatosis is heart attacks in first-degree relatives. Especially when family members are younger (women under 65, men under 55), this indicates an increased risk due to a kind of predisposition to atheroma in the vessel walls. Other risk factors for atheromatosis are overweight and a high level of triglyceride fats in the blood.
Atheromatosis can lead to different symptoms depending on the affected vascular region. However, it is present for a long time before the first symptoms appear. The deposits in the vessels are often noticed during routine check-ups by the family doctor, who uses ultrasound to examine large vessels.
There one can see whitish deposits which, depending on the age of the person affected, can be age-related or pathological. However, the diagnosis can also be made if complaints such as circulatory disorders have already occurred. Due to the occlusion of the leg vessels, for example, the foot pulses may be absent or pain may occur when running.
Occlusions in the coronary arteries cause angina pectoris symptoms such as shortness of breath and tightness of chest. Deposits in the carotid arteries can become symptomatic through dizzy spells or even fainting. All these symptoms can be examined more closely and thus allow the diagnosis of atheromatosis.