Atherosclerosis - Coronary artery disease
Arterial Disease linked to heart Pain
Atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty deposits in your arteries, can lead to high blood pressure, chest pain, heart attack or strokes. The evidence suggests that insufficient blood circulation associated with atherosclerosis may contribute to another serious condition: erosion/degeneration of the discs in your spine.
Atherosclerotic lesions in the abdominal aorta were more advanced in
patients with low back pain (LBP) vs. those without pain. From
1991-1993, 29 patients (21-58 years of age) were evaluated using a
diagnostic procedure called CT discography.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms usually develop gradually. At first, symptoms may occur only after vigorous exertion, when your arteries can't supply your muscles with enough oxygen and nutrients. But, as the narrowing worsens, it takes less and less exertion to surpass the ability of the artery to supply adequate blood. Arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis can occur in arteries anywhere in your body, but the disease most often affects arteries in your heart, brain, kidneys, abdominal aorta and legs.
The specific signs and symptoms depend on which artery or arteries are obstructed:
Hardening of the arteries can also cause erectile dysfunction in men.
There are usually no signs or symptoms until one or more of your arteries is so narrowed or clogged that you develop severely reduced blood flow (ischemia) or a blood clot, which can completely obstruct blood flow. Some people have no symptoms until a blood clot blocks a narrowed artery, causing a heart attack or stroke, or until an aneurysm ruptures, causing serious internal bleeding.
In arteriosclerosis, the walls of your arteries become hard and thick, sometimes interfering with blood circulation. The condition results from the natural aging process or from atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, complex disease that typically starts early in life and progresses. Doctors don't know the exact cause, but it may begin with damage or injury to the innermost layer of the artery called the endothelium. Causes of damage to the endothelium include:
Whatever the cause, once the inner wall of an artery is damaged, blood cells called platelets often clump at the injury site to try to repair the artery. Eventually, fatty deposits (plaques) made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products also accumulate and harden, narrowing the space in your arteries.
Organs and tissues that are served by these narrowed vessels don't get an adequate supply of blood. Your body may respond to the shortage of blood by increasing blood pressure to maintain adequate blood flow. The increase in blood pressure leads to further blood vessel damage and inflammation around the plaques. Eventually pieces of the fatty deposits may rupture and enter your bloodstream. This can cause a blood clot to form at the site and damage your organs, such as in a heart attack. A blood clot can also travel to other parts of your body and partially or totally block the flow of blood to important organs.
Hardening of the arteries occurs over time, so your risk increases as you age. The condition is most common in middle-aged and older adults.
Your risk of developing this disease also increases with:
When to seek medical advice
Don't ignore early symptoms of inadequate blood flow, such as leg pain or numbness. These symptoms can indicate increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
In fact, when you have a significant amount of arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis in one part of your body, you're more likely to have some degree of the disease in another part. If you have poor arterial circulation in your legs, you're more vulnerable to angina or a heart attack because of similar narrowing of the coronary arteries.
If you suspect that you have arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis — or risk factors for this disease — talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can stop progression of the condition and prevent a major medical emergency.