Renal Artery Disease

What Increases Your Risk


Your risks for developing renal artery stenosis (RAS), or a narrowing of the kidney arteries, are similar to that of developing atherosclerosis in any of the body’s blood vessels. These include:
  • long-standing high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • consumption of tobacco products
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • obesity
  • family history of early heart disease
  • atherosclerosis in other parts of the body, such as the heart arteries (coronary artery disease), leg arteries (peripheral artery disease), and/or arteries to the brain (carotid artery stenosis)

Many of these risk factors are “modifiable,” which means you can take steps to reduce your risk. Being aware of your risk factors and trying hard to reverse them can make a big difference.

Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can cause RAS and has a tendency to run in certain families. Family history of FMD can be considered as a risk factor for RAS as well.

Patients may develop RAS after a kidney transplant. Factors contributing to RAS within this population may result from the surgery itself, accelerated buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, and specific viral infections that transplant patients are more likely to get. Typically, this occurs between three months and two years post-transplant.

When to Talk to Your Provider

Talk to your health care provider if you have any of the above-mentioned risk factors. Also, contact your provider if you:
  • Continue to have persistent high blood pressure despite multiple blood pressure medications.
  • Have blood pressure that was well controlled for a long time but lately has become more difficult to control, despite no change in medicine and adherence to medications.
  • Experience a condition known as “flash pulmonary edema,” which is an acute feeling of being unable to take a breath, a profound feeling of breathlessness caused by a sudden buildup of fluid in the lungs. This usually is a medical emergency and requires an ER visit.
  • Have high blood pressure and evidence of declining renal function.

Early detection and lifestyle changes are all important parts in ongoing therapy for any blood vessel disease.  Awareness of risk factors and early warning signs is crucial for you and your health care provider.

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Published: March 2017
Editorial Team Leads: Khusrow A. K. Niazi, MBBS, FACC; Michelle Sloan, NP
Medical Contributors and Reviewers: Alvaro Alonso, MD; Herbert Aronow, MD, MPH, FACC; Wobo Bekwelem, MD; Aeshita Dwivedi, MD; Erica Flores, MD; Jaafer Golzar, MD, FACC; Osama Ibrahim, MD, FACC; Manoj Kesarwani, MD; Anupama Kottam, MBBS, FACC; John Phillips, MD; Aditya Sharma, MD; Mobeen Sheikh, MD, FACC; Charles Williams, RCIS, RT

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