Calcification can happen in the arteries in two common ways.
- arterial plaque forms in the inner layer of the artery and often protrudes into the “lumen” or tube structure of the artery – the flow channel where the blood travels along. Plaque starts as being soft. With time, some stays soft – this can be more difficult to detect and is less likely to give warning signals like angina. Some areas of plaque become calcified. When scans are done of the heart looking for calcification, this is what the test is being done to try to find.
- the middle layer of the artery – called the “medial’ layer – can calcify. This layer is made up principally of muscle cells, which allow the artery to relax open or contract more narrowly under control signals from the body.
Medial artery calcification is particularly a problem for people with kidney disease and most prominently for those on dialysis. This calcification can also happen with some other less common medical problems.
In this video, the diabetologist Dr. Richard K. Bernstein reviews medial artery calcification in diabetes.