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What Is Arteriolosclerosis?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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Arteriolosclerosis is a medical condition where some blood vessels experience some stiffening and rigidness, making it difficult for blood to be transported to the vital organs. The cardiovascular disease specifically targets the arterioles, which are the blood vessels that extend from the arteries and help transport the blood from the heart and into different parts of the body. There are two types of arteriolosclerosis: the hyaline and the hyperplastic arteriolosclerosis.

The term “arteriolosclerosis” is derived from two words, the Latin “arteriola” and the Greek “sklerosis” that means “little artery” and “hardening,” respectively. It should be noted that the term is different from “arteriosclerosis,” which is the umbrella term for any hardening of arteries. Arteriolosclerosis is more likely diagnosed in patients who have diabetes and hypertension because these conditions already put too much stress on the arterioles due to increased levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Other factors that can increase a patient’s chance of developing the disease are sleep apnea and stress, as both can increase blood pressure.

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The first type of arteriolosclerosis is the hyaline arteriolosclerosis, indicated by the thickening of the arterioles’ outermost walls. This is due to an accumulation of a translucent substance called hyaline, caused by either a leak of plasma proteins or an overproduction of extracellular matrix by the arteriole’s muscle cells. The hyaline type is more common and is seen in patients with benign or relatively mild diabetes and hypertension, both of which cause damage to the body but are not causing evident symptoms. It can also be seen in elderly patients and may be seen as just a sign of old age.

The second type is the hyperplastic arteriosclerosis, distinguished by the narrowing of the lumen, which is the actual opening of the arterioles and other blood vessels. In this case, the arterioles' external wall is normal, but the middle layer is thicker than usual because there are too many smooth muscle cells, causing the opening to become smaller. This type is said to indicate severe cases of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and can result in ischemia, or a deficient blood supply in the organs. In worse cases, it can lead to a kidney failure.

One effective method of determining which type of arteriolosclerosis is present is taking a micrograph or a microscopic image. A layering “onion skin” feature surrounding the lumen will be seen in the hyperplastic type, while a more solid layer will be seen in the hyaline type. Treating this cardiovascular disease usually involves a healthier lifestyle, medication, and surgery in severe cases.

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