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What Is Microangiopathy?

Disease found within the body's small blood vessels is called microangiopathy.
Microangiopathy is commonly found in diabetes patients, and may lead to amputation of the foot.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 March 2014
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Microangiopathy is a disease in the small blood vessels of the body, in contrast with another form of angiopathy, macroangiopathy, which involves the large blood vessels. There are a number of types of this condition and a range of reasons for people to develop it. It can be a serious cause of concern, as damage to the blood vessels can lead to consequences ranging from stroke to loss of a limb.

One of the most infamous forms can be found in patients with poorly controlled diabetes. In these patients, the walls of the blood vessels become damaged and start to leak proteins, and the flow of blood is impeded. Slowing the flow of blood can result in reduced oxygenation to the tissue supplied by the involved blood vessels. This, in turn, can result in necrosis. For example, the tissues in the foot may die and become damaged, potentially leading to amputation because once the tissue dies, it cannot be revived.

Microangiopathy can also occur in the central nervous system, leading to strokes. The brain especially is vulnerable to interruptions in its oxygen supply, and if the blood flow to the brain is disrupted or slowed, brain cells can die. Depending on the area of the brain involved, the patient can develop an array of symptoms. Some common hallmarks of a stroke include slurred speech, difficulty walking, confusion, and blurred vision.

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In a condition known as microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (MAHA), the blood vessels become damaged, and this leads to destruction of red blood cells, creating anemia for the patient. A number of conditions can lead to the onset of MAHA if they are not identified in time or managed appropriately.

Certain patients are at higher risk for developing microangiopathy, and they are monitored closely for early signs of onset so that they can receive treatment in a timely fashion. Diabetics, for example, are routinely examined by their care providers so that early signs of complications can be quickly identified. Healthcare professionals can use a number of diagnostic techniques to observe the signs of microangiopathic processes in the body, such as using angiography to visualize the blood vessels in an area of interest to look for signs of problems such as slow movement of blood or leaking. The most appropriate treatment varies, depending on why the patient has developed the condition and how far the problem has progressed.

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Discuss this Article

kinCaid
Post 4

@babiesX3 - Well, smoking isn't good for you no matter how you look at it, and there is plenty of evidence that it is damaging on a microvascular level. While diabetes is something you have to learn to manage, I would try to kick the smoking to reduce the chance of compounding his risk.

babiesX3
Post 3

Excellent information! My husband is a diabetic and one of the things we were told to look out for was necrosis. I had no idea what the technical cause for necrosis was, but after reading this article, I believe I understand it to be a chronic microangiopathy. He is also a smoker...do you think smoking would also cause this disease?

palomino
Post 2

@dobie - From my understanding, the two are indeed the same. I don't know why they would have differing names, unless it would be to distinguish different types of the disease, such as coronary microvascular disease from something like thrombotic microangiopathy. Then again, maybe there are some deeper, subtle differences that occur on a cellular level that us non-medical laymen just don't understand.

dobie
Post 1

Interesting. I wonder, is microangiopathy, then, the same as microvascular disease? It sounds like essentially the same affliction, but why use two different terms to describe one problem?

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