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Arteriosclerosis, a general term that refers to the hardening and thickening of the arteries, is responsible for the majority of deaths in the United States. The most common type is atherosclerosis; other types include focal calcific arteriosclerosis, arteriosclerosis obliterans, and arteriolosclerosis. All forms of arteriosclerosis are characterized by a buildup in the arteries -- whether of plaque or calcium.

What Is Arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is a generic term for the hardening and thickening of the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Arteriosclerosis is responsible for the majority of deaths in the United States and other Western nations.
 

Types of Arteriosclerosis

There are several types of arteriosclerosis. By far, the most common is atherosclerosis. Other types of arteriosclerosis include focal calcific arteriosclerosis (Mönckeberg's sclerosis) and arteriolosclerosis.
 
Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of larger blood vessels, such as the aorta, and those found in the heart (coronary arteries), brain, and legs. Atherosclerosis is caused by the slow buildup of plaque on the inside walls of arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in your blood. As it grows, the buildup of plaque narrows the inside of the artery and, in time, may restrict blood flow.
 
You can learn more about this type of arteriosclerosis by going to:
 
Focal Calcific Arteriosclerosis
Focal calcific arteriosclerosis is a condition in which calcium builds up in the middle part of the arteries. It is common in the arteries of the upper and lower extremities, as well as the genitals for both men and women. Because of this buildup of calcium, the arteries in people with this type of arteriosclerosis become extremely stiff. However, unlike atherosclerosis, the inside of the blood vessels do not narrow. Therefore, blood flow is not decreased and symptoms usually do not occur. In fact, for most people, this type of arteriosclerosis has no impact. Focal calcific arteriosclerosis can cause problems when it occurs along with atherosclerosis or when calcium gets deposited onto the aortic valve in the heart.
 
Focal calcific arteriosclerosis is more common in older people, people with diabetes, and those taking corticosteroids.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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