Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to atrophy: dystrophy, Cerebral atrophy


atrophy (ătˈrəfē), diminution in the size of a cell, tissue, or organ from its fully developed normal size. Temporary atrophy may occur in muscles that are not used, as when a limb is encased in a plaster cast. Interference with cellular nutrition, as through starvation; diseases affecting the nerve supply of tissues, e.g., poliomyelitis and muscular dystrophy; and prolonged disuse may cause a permanent wasting away of tissue. Atrophy may also follow hypertrophy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the decrease in the size of an organ or tissue of the living organism of animals and man, accompanied by a disorder or cessation of functions. Atrophy is the result of a predominance of dissimilation over the processes of assimilation.

Atrophy can be physiological and pathological, systemic and local. Physiological atrophy is a function of the growth changes of an organism (atrophy of the thymus during puberty, atrophy of the sex glands, skin, and bones in old people, and so on). General pathological atrophy (emaciation, cachexia) appears in cases of insufficient nutrition, chronic infection or intoxication, or disorders of the endocrine glands or of the central nervous system. Local pathological atrophy arises from various causes—from a disorder in the regulation of the trophic nerves (for example, atrophy of the skeletal muscles during poliomyelitis), from insufficient supply of blood (for example, atrophy of the brain cortex during atherosclerosis of the blood vessels of the brain); dysfunctional atrophy (for example, atrophy of the optic nerve after removal of an eye), as a result of pressure (for example, atrophy of the kidney in cases of embolism of the urether and accumulation of urine in the renal pelvis), from lack of use (for example, atrophy of the muscles in the extremities after long immobilization), or from the effects of physiological and chemical factors (for example, atrophy of the lymphoid tissue from the effects of solar energy, atrophy of the thyroid gland upon application of iodine preparations).

When an organ atrophies it diminishes in size but subsequently sometimes appears larger as a result of the expansion of fat tissue which replaces the atrophied cellular elements. Pathological atrophy is, up to a certain stage, a reversible process. Treatment consists of the elimination of the causes producing atrophy.


Strukov, A. I. Patologicheskaia anatomiia. Moscow, 1967.
Cameron, G. R. Pathology of the Cell. Edinburgh, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Diminution in the size of a cell, tissue, or organ that was once fully developed and of normal size.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a wasting away of an organ or part, or a failure to grow to normal size as the result of disease, faulty nutrition, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Secondary assessments demonstrated that AXA2678 attenuated muscle disuse atrophy during immobilisation; mitigated intramuscular fat accumulation commonly seen during disuse atrophic conditions; and tended to improve both peak force and time to attain peak force in the immobilised limb compared to placebo.
It seems that when it comes to treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, the earlier the better.
The fundraising and awareness generated for multiple system atrophy will certainly help the cause," said Kymberli Roemer, Chairperson of MSA NJ.
The Women's EMPOWER Survey: Identifying Women's Perceptions on Vulvar and Vaginal Atrophy and Its Treatment.
Sustained drops in estrogen can have long-term to permanent consequences for women's genitals, including the development of vaginal atrophy. Symptoms can include soreness and dryness, as well as a narrowing of the walls within the vagina and a loss in tissue elasticity.
The main symptoms of Optic Atrophy include: Blurred vision Abnormal colour vision Abnormal peripheral vision Decreased brightness in one eye compared to the other.
Mild generalized brain atrophy was demonstrated as 12.91% being the leading abnormality.15 Aim of the present study was to find out the prevalence and types of structural abnormalities in the children who has newly diagnosed as epilepsy.
MR imaging findings reported in patients from South-East Asia and Japan include loss of attachment (LOA) of the dura to the lamina, asymmetric lower cervical spinal cord atrophy, spinal cord T2 hyperintensity, loss of cervical lordosis in the neutral position and forward displacement of the dura with flexion MR imaging.
Therefore, one of the most important questions of recent times is whether late geographic atrophy is really more prevalent in patients with long-term anti-VEGF use, and if so, what role the anti-VEGF agents play in the development of geographic atrophy.
Keywords: Hot cross bun sign, Multiple system atrophy, MRI, Neurodegenerative disease.
Fundoscopic examination revealed large areas of macular atrophy centered on the fovea surrounded by reticular pseudodrusen.