Renal artery stenosis is a narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys.
The most common cause of renal artery stenosis is a blockage in the arteries due to high cholesterol. This problem occurs when a sticky, fatty substance called plaque builds up on the inner lining of the arteries.
When the arteries that carry blood to your kidneys become narrow, less blood flows to the kidneys. The kidneys mistakenly respond as if your blood pressure is low. As a result, they release hormones that tell the body to hold on to more salt and water. This causes your blood pressure to rise.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis:
High blood pressure
Heavy alcohol use
Fibromuscular dysplasia is another cause of renal artery stenosis. It is often seen in women under age 50. It tends to run in families. The condition is caused by abnormal growth of cells in the walls of the arteries leading to the kidneys. This also leads to narrowing or blockage of these arteries.
People with renovascular hypertension may have a history of very high blood pressure that is hard to bring down with medicines.
Symptoms of renovascular hypertension include:
High blood pressure at a young age
High blood pressure that suddenly gets worse or is hard to control
Kidneys that are not working well (this can start suddenly)
Narrowing of other arteries in the body, such as to the legs, the brain, the eyes and elsewhere
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Dworkin LD, Murphy T. Is there any reason to stent atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis? Am J Kidney Dis. 2010 Aug;56(2):259-63.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for high blood pressure: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147(11):783-786.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.