Renal Artery Stenosis



Renal artery stenosis (RAS) is similar to coronary artery disease (CAD). Both are the result of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in your arteries (commonly referred to as "hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis”). Non-atherosclerotic diseases such as fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can also induce the obstruction of blood flow to the kidney. FMD causes the narrowing and enlargement of the medium-sized arteries in your body (most commonly in the arteries leading to the kidney and brain), which reduce blood flow and affect the function of your organs. Another rare cause of arterial blockage occurs when the artery itself is inflamed and is caused by vasculitis.

Several risk factors—some controllable and others uncontrollable—increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis, which can lead to RAS. And if you’ve already been diagnosed with narrowing of arteries that supply blood to your heart (CAD), brain (carotid artery disease), or legs (peripheral artery disease [PAD]), you’re also at an increased risk for RAS.

Controllable risk factors

There are several risk factors that you can control to help decrease your chances of developing RAS or slow the development of the disease if you already have it.

  • Smoking – If you smoke, now’s the time to quit. Talk to your doctor about developing a strategy that will work for you.
  • Diabetes – If you have diabetes, you’re at a greater risk for RAS and heart disease. Work with your doctor to carefully manage your diabetes.
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol – Having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol increases your chance of developing RAS. Make sure you get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.
  • Lack of physical exercise – Regular physical activity will improve your overall health and help manage your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Your doctor can help you set up an exercise plan for you.
  • Being overweight or obese – Those who are overweight or obese without other risk factors have a 28% increased risk of heart disease compared with healthy people of normal weight.1 Talk to your doctor about your weight and lifestyle if you're overweight.

Uncontrollable risk factors

Although several risk factors can be controlled to prevent or slow the development of RAS, a few risk factors beyond your control increase your chances of eventually developing this condition.

  • Family history of cardiovascular disease – Ask your doctor if your family history puts you at a greater risk for RAS.
  • Age – Atherosclerosis is a process that continues as you age. The older you are, the more time fatty deposits have had an opportunity to build up in your arteries. Keep in mind that RAS and CAD, carotid artery disease, and PAD are all caused by the process of atherosclerosis. This means that if you’ve already had a blockage or narrowing of the coronary, carotid, or peripheral arteries, you’re at an increased risk of having similar problems with the arteries that carry blood to your kidneys.