Renal Artery Disease: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Renal artery disease, also named renal artery stenosis, may occur when the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the kidneys become stiff and narrow. In this case, the kidney cannot receive enough blood flow to function properly. It may cause high blood pressure and even kidney failure.

Mostly, renal artery disease affects older people with atherosclerosis. In younger adults, women are more likely to get the condition than men are. According to statistics, renal artery disease accounts for about 1% of mild to moderate cases of high blood pressure.

Causes

In more than 90% of cases, renal artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, meaning hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis occurs due to the buildup of fatty deposits or plaques along the artery wall. As the plaques accumulate, they can narrow renal arteries and finally block the blood flow to the kidneys.

Another relatively rare cause for renal artery disease is fibromuscular dysplasia. In this condition, the muscle in the artery wall grows abnormally and leaves limited space for the blood flow. Without enough blood supply, kidney damage and failure may occur.

Risk factors for developing renal artery disease include:

  • Older age
  • Female gender
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Medical conditions, such as other vascular diseases, chronic kidney disease or diabetes
  • A family history of early heart disease
  • Lack of exercise

Symptoms

In mild conditions, renal artery stenosis may cause no signs or symptoms. Most patients with the disease are asymptomatic and they may discover the condition incidentally during imaging tests for some other reason. General signs and symptoms that can help you notice the disorder include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Episodes of fluid retention
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

First, your doctor would conduct a physical examination. During the exam, he or she will ask about your medical history and listen through a stethoscope over the kidney areas for sounds that may mean the artery to your kidney is narrowed. Tests can be helpful in diagnosing renal artery disease and ruling out other suspicious conditions. These tests include:

  • Blood tests and urine tests to evaluate kidney function and measure the levels of hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • Doppler ultrasound to help your doctor see the arteries and kidneys and check their function
  • Magnetic resonance arteriogram (MRA) and computed tomographic angiography (CTA), which use a special dye to produce a 3D image of the kidney and its blood vessels
  • Renal arteriography, a special type of X-ray exam to help your doctor find the blockage in the renal arteries

Treatment

Treatment options for renal artery disease are the combination of medication, lifestyle changes or a procedure.

Medication is mainly used to treat high blood pressure associated with renal artery disease. They include:

Lifestyle changes that you can do to reduce blood pressure include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight or lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Limiting salt in your diet
  • Doing more exercises
  • Reducing your stress levels
  • Avoid smoking

For some people with uncontrolled high blood pressure and severe complications, they can choose surgical treatment. Procedures to treat renal artery stenosis may include:

  • Renal angioplasty and stenting

In this procedure, doctors open the narrowed renal artery wider and place a device inside your blood vessel to hold the walls of the vessel open and allows for better blood flow.

  • Renal artery bypass surgery

During a bypass procedure, doctors graft a substitute blood vessel to the renal artery to make a new route for blood to reach your kidneys. Sometimes this is done by connecting the renal artery to a vessel from somewhere else, such as the liver or spleen.


Keywords: renal artery disease; renal artery stenosis.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.