Monckeberg Disease

A disease in which the tunica media, the middle layer of the blood vessel wall, becomes hardened or calcified. This happens through a mechanism entirely different from that of atherosclerosis (hardening due to fatty deposits). Monckeberg disease, also called Monckeberg’s sclerosis, is seen more commonly in people with diabetes than in the general population (according to one source, after 35 years of diabetes, 94% of people have arterial calcification). While Monckeberg disease doesn’t narrow the blood vessels as atherosclerosis does, studies show that it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease. The exact cause of the calcification is unknown, but it is associated with glucose intolerance, aging, male gender, autonomic neuropathy (damage to the nerves involved in “automatic” bodily functions such as digestion), osteoporosis, and chronic kidney failure.

Monckeberg disease is usually discovered incidentally upon x-ray examination of the foot, which shows a pattern on blood vessels that looks like railroad tracks. Very little is known about how best to treat the condition. Bisphosphonate drugs, such as ibandronate (brand name Boniva) and alendronate (Fosamax), commonly used to prevent or slow bone loss in people with osteoporosis, have been shown to inhibit arterial calcification in laboratory animals. Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, which include lovastatin (Advicor, Altoprev, and Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol), fluvastatin (Lescol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and atorvastatin (Caduet and Lipitor), also appear to decrease vascular calcification.