Difference Between Atrophy and Hypertrophy

Atrophy and Hypertrophy

Summary: Difference Between Atrophy and Hypertrophy is that atrophy means decrease in size of a cell. While Hypertrophy is the increase in the size of a cell.

Difference Between Atrophy and Hypertrophy


Atrophy means decrease in size of a cell. Atrophy of more number of cells results in decreased size or wasting of the concerned tissue, organ or part of the body.

Causes of Atrophy

Atrophy is due to one or more number of causes such as:

  1. Poor nourishment
  2. Decreased blood supply
  3. Lack of workload or exercise
  4. Loss of control by nerves or hormones
  5. Intrinsic disease of the tissue or organ.

Types of Atrophy

Atrophy is of two types, physiological atrophy and pathological atrophy. Examples of physiological atrophy are the atrophy of thymus in childhood and tonsils in adolescence. The pathological atrophy is common in skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, sex organs and brain.


Hypertrophy is the increase in the size of a cell. Hypertrophy of many cells results in enlargement or overgrowth of an organ or a part of the body. Hypertrophy is of three types.

Physiological Hypertrophy

Physiological hypertrophy is the increase in size due to increased workload or exercise. The common physiological hypertrophy includes:

Muscular hypertrophy: Increase in bulk of skeletal muscles that occurs in response to strength training exercise

Ventricular hypertrophy: Increase in size of ventricular muscles of the heart which is advantageous only if it occurs in response to exercise.

Pathological Hypertrophy

Increase in cell size in response to pathological changes is called pathological hypertrophy. Example is the ventricular hypertrophy that occurs due to pathological conditions such as high blood pressure, where the workload of ventricles increases.

Compensatory Hypertrophy

Compensatory hypertrophy is the increase in size of the cells of an organ that occurs in order to compensate the loss or dysfunction of another organ of same type. Examples are the hypertrophy of one kidney when the other kidney stops functioning; and the increase in muscular strength of an arm when the other arm is dysfunctional or lost.

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