Learn more about this condition that can narrow different arteries, including ones that supply blood to your kidneys, brain, heart or abdomen.
Fibromuscular dysplasia is a condition that causes narrowing (stenosis) and enlargement (aneurysm) of the medium-sized arteries in your body. Narrowed arteries can reduce blood flow and affect the function of your organs.
Fibromuscular dysplasia appears most commonly in the arteries leading to the kidneys and brain. Fibromuscular dysplasia can affect other arteries, including those leading to your legs, heart, abdomen and, rarely, the arms. It's possible to have more than one affected artery.
Treatments are available, but there isn't a cure for fibromuscular dysplasia.
In fibromuscular dysplasia, the muscle and fibrous tissues in your arteries thicken, causing the arteries to narrow. This may reduce blood flow to your organs, leading to organ damage. Fibromuscular dysplasia of the artery to the kidney (renal artery) is shown here, with a "string of beads" appearance.
Many people who have fibromuscular dysplasia don't have any symptoms. For those who do, signs or symptoms of the disease depend on which artery or arteries are affected.
If the arteries to the kidneys are affected, common signs and symptoms include:
If the arteries affected supply blood to the brain, signs and symptoms might include:
If you have fibromuscular dysplasia, seek medical attention immediately if you have signs or symptoms that could indicate a stroke, such as:
If you have other signs or symptoms and are concerned about your risk of fibromuscular dysplasia, see your doctor.
Tell your doctor about your family health history because fibromuscular dysplasia can run in families, although that's rare. There's no genetic test for fibromuscular dysplasia.
The cause of fibromuscular dysplasia is unknown. However, several factors might play a role.
Several things may make you more likely to develop fibromuscular dysplasia.
Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause a number of complications, including:
Your doctor might check for the condition if he or she hears an abnormal sound in your upper stomach area or your neck that could be caused by the narrowed arteries. If someone in your family has or had fibromuscular dysplasia or aneurysm, your doctor might recommend checking you for the condition, even if you have no signs or symptoms.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and order blood tests, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels, to check for signs of atherosclerosis, another condition that can narrow your arteries.
Tests to diagnose fibromuscular dysplasia could include:
The most common form of fibromuscular dysplasia looks like a "string of beads" on imaging tests. Other forms of fibromuscular dysplasia have a smooth focal appearance.
Once you've been diagnosed with fibromuscular dysplasia, your doctor will follow you clinically. Occasionally, for example if you have an aneurysm, or if your symptoms change, you may need repeat imaging to monitor the arteries.
Treatment for fibromuscular dysplasia depends on the symptoms, the site of the narrowed artery and other health conditions you have, such as high blood pressure. If you don't need treatment at the time, your doctor might recommend watchful waiting.
Treatment with high blood pressure medications is recommended for people with fibromuscular dysplasia who have hypertension, even if they have a procedure to correct the condition. Several types of medications are available:
Your doctor might advise you take a daily aspirin to reduce your risk of stroke. But don't start taking an aspirin without talking to your doctor first.
Some medications used to treat hypertension can affect the way your kidneys work. Your doctor might recommend blood and urine tests to make sure your kidneys are working normally once you start taking these medications.
This procedure is preferred over surgery and is usually done at the same time as a catheter-based angiogram. During an angiogram, dye is injected through a catheter into an artery. X-rays show how the dye travels through the artery, revealing narrowed areas. A wire is threaded to the artery, and a catheter with a balloon is inserted into the narrowed area.
The balloon is then inflated to open the narrowed part of the artery. Rarely, a metal mesh tube (stent) may be placed inside the weakened part of the artery to help prevent it from rupturing.
Surgery to repair the damaged artery is rarely recommended. It's usually only done when there are complications. However, if PTA is not an option and the narrowing of your arteries is severe, your doctor might recommend a more invasive approach with surgery to repair or replace the narrowed portion of the artery. The type of surgery depends on the site of the narrowed artery and how damaged the artery is.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. For example, you might need to fast for several hours before the tests. Also, bring a family member or friend to your appointment, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
Make a list of:
For fibromuscular dysplasia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as: