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(ăt`rəfē), 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 hypertrophyhypertrophy
, enlargement of a tissue or organ of the body resulting from an increase in the size of its cells. Such growth accompanies an increase in the functioning of the tissue. In normal physiology the growth in size of muscles (e.g.
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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Most notably, IPE dysfunction is best supported by the existing animal literature on iris pigment dispersion, iris atrophy, and pigmentary glaucoma.
At the final visit, patchy or sectoral iris atrophy was seen in 28 eyes (41.7%) and transillumination defects (Figure 2) were present in 10 eyes (14.9%).
Ocular findings in 171 eyes of 161 patients at time of presentation Finding n (%) Keratic precipitates 168 (98.2%) Iris atrophy Heterochromia 47 (27.4%) Loss of iris crypts 41 (23.9%) Atrophy at the pupillary margin 80 (46.7%) Iris nodules Koeppe nodules 32 (18.7%) Koeppe ve Busacca nodules 4 (2.3%) Anterior chamber reaction [less than or equal to]+1 67 (39.2%) +1<x[less than or equal to]+2 15 (8.7%) Vitreous reaction [less than or equal to]+1 63 (36.8%) +1<x[less than or equal to]+2 52 (30.4%) +2<x[less than or equal to]+3 5 (2.9%) +4 (severe vitritis) 2 (1.2%) Lens opacity Posterior subcapsular opacity 82 (47.9%) Mature cataract 5 (2.9%) Nuclear opacity 2 (1.2%) Table 3.
Clinical findings taken into consideration for the diagnosis of FUS were low-grade chronic anterior inflammation, diffuse iris atrophy with or without heterochromia, typical diffusely spread KPs, vitreous opacities, presence of posterior subcapsular cataract, lack of posterior synechiae and cystoid macular edema, resistance to steroid therapy, absence of acute exacerbations, and posterior inflammation.
Also perform an assessment of iris transillumination to assess for segmental or diffuse iris atrophy, while corneal and facial sensation to light touch can help to determine the possibility of a neurological cause.
The clinical features of an anterior herpetic uveitis may include corneal scarring, decreased corneal sensation, iris atrophy, anterior and/or vitreous cells, granulomatous or non-granulomatous KPs, posterior synechiae, and elevated IOR5.