Disease of the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys – a condition known as renal artery stenosis – is less common than the more familiar form of atherosclerosis, peripheral arterial disease, but is equally serious.
What is renal artery disease?
Like the atherosclerosis that affects the arteries of the legs (peripheral artery disease), renal artery disease is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries that lead to the kidneys. Plaque is made up of fats and cholesterol, and as it accumulates in the renal arteries, it causes the arteries to stiffen and narrow, which blocks the flow of blood to the kidneys. Obstructions (blockages) in the renal arteries, known as renal artery stenoses, can cause poorly controlled high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure.
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What are the symptoms?
High blood pressure that is not controlled by medications and lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, may be a symptom of renal artery disease. Symptoms of renal artery disease may also include episodes of fluid retention or congestive heart failure. In some cases, renal artery disease may be entirely asymptomatic (not associated with any symptoms).In severe cases, renal artery disease may lead to kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney failure include weakness, shortness of breath and fatigue.
What causes renal artery disease?
Renal artery disease most often is related to peripheral artery disease (atherosclerosis in arteries outside the heart) or coronary artery disease. Atherosclerotic renal artery disease is the most common form of this condition, accounting for more than 80 percent of all renal artery disease. The balance is generally caused by fibromuscular dysplasia, a congenital disorder that causes thickening of the artery walls without plaque build-up.The kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure by secreting a hormone called renin. If the renal arteries are narrowed or blocked, the kidneys cannot work effectively to control blood pressure. Persistent or severe high blood pressure is a common symptom of renal artery stenosis.