Atheromatosis is a serious disease that is associated with a different prognosis for the affected person depending on its severity. If it is detected early, much can be done to counteract the progression of vascular deposits and the associated potential consequential damage. In advanced stages, however, the prognosis can be very poor, for example if strokes or heart attacks have already occurred. In such cases, the atheromatosis is already very pronounced. Nevertheless, even in these cases, it is often possible to prevent further complications through close examination and consistent therapy.
Prognosis by localization
Deposits in the vascular wall of the aorta can cause an aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection. An aortic aneurysm represents a bulging of the vessel, which usually causes no symptoms. Often the aneurysm is only discovered by chance in a CT scan.
In rare cases, it can lead to unspecific symptoms such as a feeling of pressure in the chest, back pain or colicky flank pain. A very large aneurysm can press on adjacent organs and nerves in the chest and cause discomfort. These include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or a drooping eyelid.
Aortic dissection is a splitting of the vessel wall with the formation of a second vascular channel within the vessel wall layers. Atheromatosis is also an important causative factor in this, along with other diseases such as high blood pressure or a connective tissue disease. Aortic dissection can lead to serious complications such as heart attacks, strokes or bleeding.
Atheromatosis of the carotid artery, also known as carotid artery disease, is often noticed during check-ups at the family doctor. An ultrasound examination of these large arteries in the neck then reveals whitish deposits in the vessel walls. These do not cause any symptoms for a long time, as enough blood can still flow through the large interior of the artery.
Only when the deposits are so pronounced that not enough blood can flow through them do symptoms appear. This is called symptomatic carotid stenosis. The narrowing can cause symptoms such as dizziness or fainting spells.
A so-called TIA (transient ischemic attack), a harbinger of stroke, can also occur. Typical symptoms include temporary blindness in one eye (amaurosis fugax), paralysis of the arm and leg on one side, speech disorders or loss of consciousness. Symptomatic carotid stenosis or a very pronounced narrowing should be treated by removing the deposits and thus reopening the vessel (thrombectomy).
Atheromatosis of the coronary arteries is also known as coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease for short. The small coronary vessels are important for supplying the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. When the coronary vessels are narrowed by atheromatosis, the heart muscle is undersupplied with oxygen.
This leads to the widespread symptom complex of angina pectoris. Consisting of stabbing chest pain, nausea and shortness of breath. This usually improves with the administration of the drug nitroglycerin.
A complete narrowing of a coronary vessel or a so-called plaque rupture can lead to a complete heart attack. A plaque rupture is the detachment of a vessel deposit, also called plaque. The detachment of the plaque can lead to a blockage of the vessel in a narrower section of the vessel and thus to a heart attack.