What Does Atrophy Mean? Types and Causes

What Does Atrophy Mean? Types and Causes

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Atrophy may not be a mainstream name like cancer, diabetes or other diseases. But what does atrophy mean?

Atrophy is a biological term that is the opposite of growth. When a living thing or parts of a living thing goes through atrophy, they will stop growing. They actually shrink and could eventually die if the process is not stopped.

The different types of atrophy are based on what part of the person that the weakening takes place.

Causes and Types of Atrophy

Atrophy can affect the whole body of a living thing. The main reason for the withering of the body could be that the person (or organism) is just not eating enough food or getting the nutrition that it needs to survive and is starving. Without food, the body does not get the proteins and the vitamins that it needs to keep metabolic processes going. Cells and tissues need these metabolic processes to, keep working so they start weakening and slowing down.

Eventually, tissues like the liver, the spleen, and the lymphoid tissues are very much affected by the withering of the body. The heart, brain, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, gonads and kidneys of the living thing are affected, but less so.


Other Types of Atropy

  • Muscle and Bone

Another type of atrophy just affects the muscles and the bones. What is known is that a decreasing of the blood supply and a lack of nutrition can happen and affect inactive muscles. The lack of activity leads to the weakening of muscles and bone. Muscles will no longer due to the devastation of the nerve cells in the spinal cord that normally control muscles.

Some muscles may become paralyzed. After a few weeks, the shirking of the muscles will become evident to the person and to everybody else. After a couple of months, the muscles will begin to fragment and disappear.

The connective tissue will start to be affected. With a weakening connective tissues, the bones will not work as well since they need the connective to move easily.

  • Nerve

Atrophy may occur in the nerve cells of a living being. This weakening is usually caused by an injury that can impede the blood supply to a certain amount of nerve cells. With no blood going to these nerve cells, weakening starts happening and degeneration occurs. This kind of atrophy is called Wallerian degeneration.

Unless these nerve cells are given certain conditions to regenerate, the weakening will become permanent and the weakening could ultimately develop in the rest of the central nervous system.

  • Lipodystrophy

When a living thing does not get the nutrition that they need for a long time, the atrophy of the adipose tissue will happen. The particular kind of withering is called lipodystrophy. This type of atrophy may also come from many insulin injections in the same area. This may result in the disease called progressive lipodystrophy and Ir causes fatty tissue to weaken.

This disease mostly happens in females and could start as early as in childhood. This weakening of adipose tissue will be happening in the face, trunk, and arms. Due to this withering, the fat-tissue cells will eventually disappear.

  • Skin atrophy

The atrophy of the skin of a living thing is mainly caused by the aging process. This weakening results in certain diseases occurring. One skin disease is called scleroderma. This disease causes the skin to harden. The tissue and the appendages of the true skin will weaken a lot.

This disease could also thin the epidermis and wither the fatty tissues and the muscles. A disease called discoid lupus erythematosus will cause atrophy in the skin and will affect certain areas in the epidermis. Under the microscopic, a person could see this diseased layer of skin and this could be permanent.

  • Glandular Tissue

Another kind of atrophy has to do with the endocrine glandular tissues. This weakening happens when there is too much hormone due to disease. A tumor in one hormone-producing adrenal gland could atrophy in the tissue of the other adrenal gland. The tumor is impeding hormonal simulation by the pituitary gland.

Atrophy may come from outside of the living thing. A living thing that is exposed repeatedly to lead will develop lead poisoning and will result in the withering of the neuropathy. The peripheral nerves will be degraded and the tissues in the legs or arms will be atrophied.


Atrophy is a biological term that affects all of a living organism (person) or just parts. There are different types of atrophy depending on what they affect. Such as muscles, and bone, nerve tissues, fatty tissues, skin, and glands. There is also atrophy that is caused by an outside source such as arsenic or lead. People should take atrophy very seriously and deal with it as soon as it occurs.


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