Fibromuscular Disease

Fibromuscular disease (sometimes referred to as fibromuscular dysplasia or FMD), is a rare condition characterized by abnormal cellular growth or development within the walls of medium and large arteries. This condition can cause the affected arteries to narrow (focal fibromuscular disease) or take on a beaded appearance (multifocal fibromuscular disease).

Fibromuscular disease primarily affects the carotid arteries (which supply blood to the brain) and renal arteries (which supply blood to the kidneys), but can also occur within other arteries, including the:

  • Coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart
  • Mesenteric arteries, which supply blood to the intestines
  • Arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs

Causes of Fibromuscular Disease

Scientists within the medical community are still trying to determine exactly what causes fibromuscular disease. However, studies suggest that the following risk factors can make someone more likely to develop this condition:

  • The presence of certain hormones (although fibromuscular disease can affect anyone, more than 90% of patients are women)
  • Genetics (approximately 7% to 11% of fibromuscular disease cases are inherited)
  • Stress on the walls of the affected arteries
  • Reduced oxygen supply to the walls of the affected arteries

Symptoms of Fibromuscular Disease

If fibromuscular disease restricts blood flow, it can cause symptoms that will vary depending on where the affected artery is located:

  • Carotid arteries – Headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, neck pain, blurred vision and a pulsating swooshing noise within the ears or the neck
  • Renal arteries – High blood pressure (renovascular hypertension), impaired kidney function and shrinkage (atrophy) of the kidneys
  • Coronary arteries – Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), which can cause chest pain and heart attack
  • Mesenteric arteries – Abdominal pain after eating and unexplained weight loss
  • Arteries supplying blood to the arms or legs – Pain while exercising and, rarely, acute limb ischemia

Diagnosing Fibromuscular Disease

If a physician suspects that a patient might have fibromuscular disease, he or she may order one or more of the following imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Computed tomography angiogram (CTA)
  • Duplex or Doppler ultrasound
  • Dye angiogram
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA)

Treatment for Fibromuscular Disease

Since fibromuscular disease can increase the risk of developing an aneurysm, high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney dysfunction or failure, a stroke or a tear in an artery wall (dissection), it’s important to seek treatment for this condition. The specialists at Tampa General Hospital create customized treatment plans based on each patient’s specific needs.

For fibromuscular disease, this might include:

  • Medication such as antiplatelet medication or blood pressure medication
  • Periodic testing to monitor the condition
  • Proper management of any underlying conditions
  • Surgery such as angioplasty