Microangiopathy is a general term for any disease or
disorder of the small blood vessels. Blood vessels are
tube shaped structures that carry blood to and from the
heart. One type of small blood vessel is a capillary. The
capillaries act as an exchange system that connects
the smallest veins (known as venules) with the smallest
arteries (known as arterioles). Veins are blood vessels
that carry blood to the heart. Arteries are blood vessels
that carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the
body. Venules and arterioles are other types of small
There are many different types of microangiopathy, depending on the disease or disorder
that caused it to occur. For example, there is thrombotic microangiopathy, in which blood
clots form in the arterioles and capillaries (see above). A blood clot is a collection of a
mass of blood. In the rare and often deadly disease, thrombotic thrombocytopenic
purpura, the small blood vessels in many organs throughout the body become blocked.
The walls of the blood vessels become damaged, fever occurs, and a patchy, purplish
rash known as purpura develops. Microangiopathy can be caused by septicemia, which is
blood poisoning. Microangiopathy can also be caused by eclampsia. Eclampsia is a rare,
but serious complication of pregnancy characterized by an attack of convulsions
(abnormal, severe, involuntary muscle movements) that are not caused by other
conditions of the brain, such as bleeding in the brain.
When microangiopathy accompanies these and other conditions,
the small blood vessels become distorted. This causes red blood
that help carry oxygen in the blood.
Distortion or destruction of red blood cells can lead to a type of
anemia known as microangiopathic hemolytic anemia.
Anemia is a condition in which there is an abnormally low amount of
hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is substance present in red
blood cells that help carry oxygen to cells in the body.
Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed earlier than they should be.
Microangiopathic hemolytic anemia means that the hemolytic anemia has been caused by
microangiopathy. Microangiopathy comes from the Greek word "mikros" meaning "small," the Greek word
"angeion" meaning "vessel," and the Greek word "pathos" meaning "disease." Put the two words together
and you have "small vessel disease."