A Look Into Fibromuscular Dysplasia

Human artery, cut-away computer artwork.
Fibromuscular Dysplasia. SHUBHANGI GANESHRAO KENE / Getty Images

Fibromuscular dysplasia is a condition in which there is narrowing and enlargement of the arteries of the body. This continuous narrowing and bulging that occurs side by side can cause the artery to narrow to the point that the organs can get damaged. If left untreated, fibromuscular dysplasia can create a number of health complications such as tears in the artery and high blood pressure. This condition occurs mostly in the arteries that are connected to the kidneys.

Other arteries that may be affected as well include arteries that lead the abdomen, arms, legs, and brain. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, only treatment.

Those who have fibromuscular dysplasia may have a variety of different symptoms depending on the artery that is affected with this condition, or some may not experience any symptoms at all. Affected kidney symptoms include high blood pressure, chronic kidney failure, and tissue damage of the kidney. Affected brain symptoms include facial numbness or weakness, headaches, vision problems, dizziness, neck pain, and tinnitus. Affected abdominal symptoms include abdominal pain and weight loss. Arm and leg symptoms include cold limbs, numbness, weakness, skin changes, and discomfort in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. Sometimes, it is possible to have more than one affected artery at a time so some people may experience multiple symptoms.​

There is no definite cause of fibromuscular dysplasia. However, there are certain factors that contribute to this condition. Genetics can play a role in the development of fibromuscular dysplasia. Hormones also contribute to the development of fibromuscular dysplasia. This is why women are more likely to develop this condition than men.

Abnormally formed arteries can also increase the chances for fibromuscular dysplasia because it can cause the vessels to form abnormally. There are also some risk factors of fibromuscular dysplasia. Women are more likely than men to develop this disease. Fibromuscular dysplasia is more commonly found in those in their early 50s. Smoking also plays a part in the development of fibromuscular dysplasia. Smoking can also worsen the condition if previously diagnosed.

Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause many serious complications such as:

  • high blood pressure: the narrowing of the arteries results in a higher pressure in the artery walls. This can cause extensive artery damage, heart failure, or heart disease.

  • chronic kidney failure: kidney failure is a result of the narrowing of the artery to the kidneys. The kidneys cannot function with this insufficient amount of blood flow.

  • Aneurysms: Because fibromuscular dysplasia can weaken the artery walls, an aneurysm may form. An aneurysm that is ruptured may be fatal.

  • dissected artery: because this disease causes multiple tears in the artery walls, there may be leaks and blood inside the walls. This arterial dissection can limit the flow of blood to the organ.

  • Stroke: If there is a dissected artery or aneurysm leading to the brain, you may have a stroke. Furthermore, high blood pressure can also lead to a stroke as well.

Surgery is needed for the repair of the damaged artery. There are multiple surgeries that can be done such as percutaneous transluminal renal angioplasty (PTRA) and surgical revascularization. Because high blood pressure tends to be a complication of this disease, many doctors would advise patients to take high blood pressure medications. Examples include

  • angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: stops the narrowing of blood vessels

  • angiotensin II receptor blockers: assists with the relaxation of blood vessels

  • diuretics:removes the excess fluids from the body

  • calcium channel blockers: helps relax the blood vessels

  • beta blockers: slows the heartbeat and halts adrenaline.

There are many various kinds of treatments for this disease.

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