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What is Renovascular Disease?

Male Urinary Tract
Male urinary tract
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Female Urinary Tract
Female urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Renovascular Kidney
Renovascular Kidney
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Most kidneys work well to clean the blood and keep the body's fluids and electrolytes in balance. But sometimes, the arteries of the kidneys can get smaller or become blocked. This can seriously damage this important filtering system. It can limit the blood supply going to and from the kidneys.

Renovascular diseases are diseases of the arteries to the kidneys. High blood pressure and/or kidney failure can result from these diseases.

The information here can help you talk with your doctor about treatment.

What are the types of renovascular diseases?

There are two main diseases of the renal (kidney) arteries:

  • Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis (AS-RAS), and
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD)

Atherosclerosis is better known as hardening of the arteries. It is a common disease. Atherosclerosis is the cause of 9 out of 10 renovascular disease cases. It can involve the large and/or small branches of the renal artery. People with diabetes, aortoiliac occlusive disease, coronary artery disease or other forms of high blood pressure are at risk.

The main risk factors for AS-RAS are:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use or drug abuse

If you have AS-RAS you may have ongoing narrowing of the renal artery. This means that the arteries continue to narrow for many years, even after treatment. Many arteries can become totally blocked. For some people, their kidney shrinks. AS-RAS is seen if you have diabetes or similar problems. This disease can be missed if hypertension or kidney dysfunction doesn't occur.

Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a group of vascular diseases that affect the linings of the renal artery. About 10% of AS-RAS cases also have FMD. It is more common in women and people between age 25 and 50. FMD involves the main renal artery and its branches. It looks like beads in the arteries with imaging tests (angiograms). It rarely leads to total artery block, but it is still a problem.

The cause of FMD is not known, though some experts think genetics play a role. Smoking, hormones and disorders of the blood supply to the renal artery may also play a role.