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.
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.