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.
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.
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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:
- High blood pressure
- Poor kidney function
If the arteries affected supply blood to the brain, signs and symptoms might include:
- Pulsating ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- Sudden neck pain
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
When to see a doctor
If you have fibromuscular dysplasia, seek medical attention immediately if you have signs or symptoms that could indicate a stroke, such as:
- Sudden changes in your vision
- Sudden changes in your ability to speak
- Sudden or new weakness in your arms or legs
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.
- Hormones. Researchers think female hormones might play a role in the development of the disease. Fibromuscular dysplasia is not linked to women's use of birth control pills, number of pregnancies, or age when they gave birth.
- Genetics. If someone in your family has fibromuscular dysplasia, you might get the condition, too.
Several things may make you more likely to develop fibromuscular dysplasia.
- Sex. Fibromuscular dysplasia is more common in women than it is in men.
- Age. Although it can affect people of any age, fibromuscular dysplasia tends to be diagnosed in people in their 50s.
- Smoking. People who smoke appear to have an increased risk of developing fibromuscular dysplasia. For those already diagnosed with the disease, smoking increases the risk for more-serious disease.
Fibromuscular dysplasia can cause a number of complications, including:
- High blood pressure. The narrowing of the arteries of the kidneys causes higher pressure on your artery walls, which can lead to further artery damage, heart disease or heart failure.
- Dissected artery. Fibromuscular dysplasia and tears in the walls of your arteries often occur together. This process is called arterial dissection or spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), when it occurs in the arteries of the heart or coronaries. Dissections can limit blood flow to the organ supplied by the injured artery.
- Aneurysms. Fibromuscular dysplasia can weaken the walls of the arteries it affects, creating a bulge (aneurysm). An aneurysm rupture can be life-threatening. Aneurysms need to be monitored and sometimes require surgery to prevent rupture.
- 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 also can increase your risk of a stroke.
Aug. 12, 2021