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Fibromuscular dysplasia

Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a condition that causes narrowing (stenosis) and enlargement (aneurysm) of the medium-sized arteries in your body. The areas of narrowing and bulging occur next to each other and can cause the artery to narrow so much that organs that receive blood from the artery are damaged.

Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause a number of complications, such as high blood pressure or tears of the artery (dissection), if left untreated.

Fibromuscular dysplasia appears most commonly in the arteries leading to the kidneys. Fibromuscular dysplasia can also affect the arteries leading to your brain, abdomen, arms and legs. While there isn't a cure for fibromuscular dysplasia, it can be treated effectively.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Most people who have fibromuscular dysplasia don't have any symptoms. Still, it's possible you could have some signs or symptoms of the disease, depending on what artery is affected by fibromuscular dysplasia.

Kidney signs and symptoms

If the arteries to your kidneys (renal arteries) are affected, you may have:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tissue damage in your kidney (ischemic renal atrophy)
  • Chronic kidney failure, rarely

Brain signs and symptoms

If the arteries to your brain (carotid arteries) are affected, you may have:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision or temporary loss of vision
  • Pulsating ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Neck pain
  • Chronic headaches
  • Facial weakness or numbness

Abdominal signs and symptoms

If the arteries to your abdomen (mesenteric arteries) are affected, you may have:

  • Abdominal pain after eating
  • Unintended weight loss

Arm and leg signs and symptoms

If the arteries to your arms or legs (peripheral arteries) are affected, you may have:

  • Discomfort when moving your arms, legs, hands or feet
  • Cold limbs
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Skin changes in color or appearance

Some people with fibromuscular dysplasia have more than one narrowed artery.

When to see a doctor

If you have fibromuscular dysplasia and have any sudden changes in your vision, ability to speak, or new weakness in your arms or legs, seek medical attention immediately.

If you have any of the other signs or symptoms listed and are concerned about your risk of fibromuscular dysplasia, see your doctor. Because fibromuscular dysplasia can be hereditary, tell your doctor about your family history of the disease, even before you show any symptoms so that he or she can be alert to changes that might suggest you have fibromuscular dysplasia. There's currently no genetic test for fibromuscular dysplasia.

While the cause of fibromuscular dysplasia is unknown, it's believed that several factors may play a role.

  • Genetics. Genetics may play a role in the development of fibromuscular dysplasia. But, if another family member has fibromuscular dysplasia, you or a relative may never get fibromuscular dysplasia, or you might get the condition in a different artery or have a milder case or a more severe case than your family member's fibromuscular dysplasia. In addition, not everyone who has fibromuscular dysplasia has a relative with the disease.
  • Hormones. Because women have fibromuscular dysplasia more often than men do, hormones may be linked to the development of fibromuscular dysplasia. However, fibromuscular dysplasia is not linked to how many pregnancies a woman has had, when she gives birth or whether she's taken birth control pills.
  • Abnormally formed arteries. Fibromuscular dysplasia could be caused by inadequate oxygen to the arteries that supply your blood vessel walls with blood, which causes the vessels to form abnormally. It could also be caused if the position of your arteries in your body is abnormal, or if a medication or tobacco causes your arteries to develop abnormally. Once the artery develops abnormally, a cluster of cells builds in the artery wall, narrowing it and reducing blood flow.

Although the cause of fibromuscular dysplasia is unknown, there are several factors that appear to increase the risk of developing the disorder, including:

  • Sex. Women have a much greater risk of fibromuscular dysplasia than do men.
  • Age. Fibromuscular disorder tends to be diagnosed in people in their early 50s.
  • Smoking. People who smoke appear to have an increased risk of developing fibromuscular dysplasia. For those already diagnosed with the disease, smoking is a risk factor for more serious fibromuscular dysplasia.

Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause a number of complications. These include:

  • High blood pressure. A common complication of fibromuscular dysplasia is high blood pressure. The narrowing of the arteries causes higher pressure on your artery walls, which can lead to further artery damage, heart disease or heart failure.
  • Chronic kidney failure. If the artery to the kidney is narrowed by fibromuscular dysplasia, you may not get enough blood flow to your kidney, causing permanent kidney injury.
  • Dissected artery. Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause tears in the walls of your arteries, causing blood to leak into the artery wall. This process, called arterial dissection or spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), can limit blood flow to the organ supplied by the injured artery.
  • Aneurysms. Fibromuscular dysplasia can weaken the walls of your arteries, creating a bulge called an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be a life-threatening emergency. An aneurysm can occur in any artery affected by fibromuscular dysplasia.
  • Stroke. If you have a dissected artery leading to your brain or if an aneurysm in an artery to your brain ruptures, you can have a stroke. High blood pressure can also increase your risk of a stroke.

Generally, fibromuscular dysplasia isn't preventable. However, if you're a smoker, quitting smoking may reduce your likelihood of developing fibromuscular dysplasia.

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