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Uncontrollable Risk Factors - Fibromuscular Dysplasia

What is FMD?

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD) is a medical disorder where some of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body do not develop as they should. Fibrous tissue grows in the wall of the arteries, causing them to narrow. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases, which can lead to stroke.

In most cases (75 percent of patients), FMD affects the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys (renal arteries). But it can also affect the artery in your neck that supplies blood to the brain (the carotid artery). Sometimes it affects other arteries, such as those to the arms and legs or to the abdomen.

What are the symptoms of FMD?

Many people with FMD do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease. Others do. Whether or not you experience symptoms depends on how severe the damage is to the arteries and which arteries have been damaged. Damage to the leg arteries can cause you to feel leg pain. Damage to the kidney arteries can result in high blood pressure or even kidney failure. Other symptoms range from chronic headaches, dizziness, ringing or buzzing in the ears and neck pain to heart attack and stroke.

Who has FMD?

Anyone can have FMD, but it is more common in women. Three times as many women as men have FMD. The total number of people with the disorder is unknown because many people with FMD do not know they have it.

What causes FMD?

The exact cause of FMD is still unknown. The following factors, however, may increase your chances of having FMD:

  • someone in your family has FMD
  • use of tobacco
  • hormonal factors

How is FMD related to stroke?

FMD may damage arteries to the brain, interrupting blood flow to the brain and causing a stroke. It may also lead to bleeding in the brain, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.

How can FMD be diagnosed?

An arteriography/angiography, which is an x-ray picture of the arteries, is most often used to diagnose FMD. Diagnosis methods also include other x-ray procedures such as MRI, Ultrasound, and CT scan. In most cases of FMD, the affected artery will be seen on the x-ray as a string of beads. The x-ray may also show the narrowing of the arteries without the string of beads.

How can FMD be treated?

There is no cure for FMD but there are things you can do to treat some of the symptoms, reduce your risk, and improve blood flow through the arteries. Ask your doctor about the best treatment options for you.

Where can I get more information?

The Fibromuscular Dysplasia Society of America (FMDSA) can provide information about FMD treatment, support, awareness, and research. Visit its web site at http://www.fmdsa.org/ for more information.

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