Also known as renal artery stenosis, this disease has a major impact on the kidneys and thus on the rest of the body. It’s not a disease that is widely known or understood, but it can occur nonetheless, especially in people with atherosclerosis. Here’s a quick and easy guide to help you understand the basics of renal artery disease and how to prevent it from taking over your body.
Defining Renal Artery Stenosis
Renal artery disease when at least one of the arteries responsible for carrying blood to your kidneys becomes too narrow to do its job. As less oxygen-rich blood reaches the kidneys, they struggle to adequately filter waste and excess fluids from the body. In addition, renal artery stenosis causes high blood pressure because the body misinterprets the lack of blood reaching the kidneys as low blood pressure and releases a hormone to increase blood pressure. If left untreated, renal artery stenosis can eventually culminate in kidney failure.
Common Causes and Symptoms
Nearly 90 percent of all renal artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which fat and cholesterol form plaque that lines the walls of blood vessels. Older female patients are more at risk of this disease, as are people with other vascular diseases and diabetes.
However, renal artery disease can be tricky to suspect and diagnose in its early stages because it does not present any unique symptoms. Uncontrollable high blood pressure is one signal, but the disease can mainly be identified by blood tests, urine tests, and ultrasounds.
The first step to minimizing the damage of renal artery stenosis is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Maintain a healthy weight, reduce salt intake, get more exercise, and quit smoking. There are medications available to treat high blood pressure and relax blood vessels, but some people need to undergo surgery to save themselves from renal artery disease.
As long as a diagnosis of renal artery disease is followed by smart lifestyle choices and consistent use of medication or surgery, the condition can be controlled safely.