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What is Angiopathy?

By Christine Hudson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Angiopathy is the term used for any disease of the blood vessels. This is a generic term, with more specific terms used to describe certain diseases and the areas they affect. There are many different types of angiopathy, but the most common are cerebral amyloid, congophilic and diabetic. These are classified under the two strains of microangiopathy and macroangiopathy, which pertain to smaller and larger vessels, respectively.

Microangiopathy occurs when the walls of the capillaries become thick and are weakened, causing them to leak protein, bleed out and slow the flow of blood. This type of angiopathy is a major complication that can often affect those with diabetes mellitus. Common areas affected by microangiopathy include the blood vessels of the eyes. This can sometimes cause blindness if not cared for properly.

Macroangiopathy, on the other hand, occurs when deposits of fat and blood clots build up within larger blood vessels, such as the arteries. These deposits stick to the walls of the blood vessel and thus block the flow of blood. This may cause coronary artery, cerebrovascular and peripheral vascular disease. In some cases, it may even lead to strokes of the heart or brain or clots in the legs.

Angiopathy has also been reported as a side effect with some medications. Medications ranging from birth control to anti-depressants to migraine-relief drugs have listed it as a rare, but serious, side effect from use. This side effect is typically reported to occur in less than 1% of users. Those already dealing with, or at high risk for, angiopathy are generally warned to speak with their doctor about alternatives before beginning medication that may cause this side effect.

Self-diagnosis of angiopathy is usually difficult and sometimes even impossible and is typically not recommended. The range of possible symptoms and side effects produced by the disease, coupled with multiple types of the disease being possible, usually make self-diagnosis dangerous. It is typically recommended that identification and treatment of angiopathy be left to a professional. Treatment may include medications, with the goal being to treat symptoms, as there is no known effective remedy for the disease itself.

Some patients are at higher risk of blood vessel diseases such as macroangiopathy and microangiopathy. Patients with a family history of the disease or those with diabetes are often screened on a regular basis so symptoms may quickly be recognized. Angiography may be used to view vessels in any area of interest or concern. Early detection is usually the best method of treatment, as untreated areas may sometimes develop more serious problems.

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