Fibromuscular Dysplasia : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD);

Fibromuscular Dysplasia - Modern HealthMe, Healthline, WebMD
String of Beads appearance- FMD


Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a rare but significant vascular disorder affecting arteries, particularly those leading to the kidneys, brain, and other vital organs. This condition involves abnormal cell development in the walls of medium-sized arteries, leading to narrowing, aneurysms, and other complications.

What is Fibromuscular Dysplasia(FMD)?

Fibromuscular dysplasia is a non-inflammatory, non-atherosclerotic arterial disease characterized by abnormal cell growth in the arterial walls. This growth can lead to the formation of fibrous tissues, causing narrowing (stenosis), weakening (aneurysm), or twisting (dissection) of the affected arteries. Commonly affected arteries include those supplying the kidneys (renal arteries), brain (carotid and vertebral arteries), abdomen, and extremities.


The exact cause of fibromuscular dysplasia remains unclear, but several factors may contribute to its development:

  1. Genetic predisposition: FMD often runs in families, suggesting a genetic component to the condition.
  2. Hormonal influences: Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, may trigger or exacerbate FMD.
  3. Mechanical stress: Chronic exposure to mechanical stress or trauma on arterial walls may contribute to the development of FMD.

Signs and Symptoms of Fibromuscular Dysplasia:

The symptoms of fibromuscular dysplasia vary depending on the location and severity of arterial involvement. Common signs and symptoms include:

1. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

  • Elevated blood pressure, particularly in young individuals, is a common hallmark of fibromuscular dysplasia.
  • Hypertension may be difficult to control with medication alone and often requires specialized management.

2. Neurological Symptoms

  • Headaches: Individuals with FMD may experience recurrent headaches, which can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea or sensitivity to light.
  • Dizziness: Episodes of dizziness or lightheadedness may occur, especially when changing positions.
  • Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears): Some individuals may perceive ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears, known as tinnitus, which can be constant or intermittent.

3. Abdominal Symptoms

  • Abdominal Pain: Pain or discomfort in the abdomen, particularly after eating, may occur due to reduced blood flow to the abdominal organs, such as the intestines.
  • Bowel Symptoms: Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or changes in bowel habits may accompany abdominal pain in individuals with mesenteric artery involvement.

4. Peripheral Symptoms

  • Leg Pain or Weakness: Pain, cramping, or weakness in the legs, especially during physical activity, may occur due to reduced blood flow to the lower extremities.
  • Cold Extremities: Some individuals may experience coldness or numbness in the hands or feet, particularly in response to cold temperatures.

5. Renal Symptoms

  • Kidney Dysfunction: Impaired blood flow to the kidneys can lead to reduced kidney function or kidney failure over time.
  • Flank Pain: Pain or discomfort in the sides of the abdomen (flank pain) may occur, particularly if the renal arteries are affected.

6. Other Symptoms

  • Vision Changes: In rare cases, individuals with FMD may experience vision changes, such as blurred vision or visual disturbances, if the arteries supplying the eyes are affected.
  • Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath may occur in severe cases, particularly if FMD affects the arteries supplying the lungs or heart.

Risk Factors:

  1. Gender: FMD is more common in women than in men, particularly in women of childbearing age.
  2. Age: While FMD can affect individuals of any age, it is most commonly diagnosed in young to middle-aged adults.
  3. Family history: Having a family member with FMD increases the likelihood of developing the condition.
  4. Hormonal factors: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause may contribute to FMD development or progression.

Diagnosis of Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD) :

1. Clinical Evaluation and History:

  • Symptom Assessment: A comprehensive clinical evaluation begins with a thorough assessment of the patient’s symptoms, including hypertension, headaches, abdominal pain, leg discomfort, or neurological symptoms like dizziness or tinnitus.
  • Medical History: Inquiring about the patient’s medical history, including any family history of vascular disorders, hypertension, or kidney disease, can provide valuable insights into the potential presence of fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD).

2. Blood Tests:

  • Renal Function Tests: Blood tests, such as serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN), are performed to assess renal function. Elevated levels may indicate impaired kidney function, a common complication of renal artery involvement in FMD.
  • Electrolyte Levels: Monitoring electrolyte levels, including potassium and sodium, helps evaluate renal function and electrolyte balance, which may be affected by FMD-related renal dysfunction or hypertension.

3. Radiological Imaging:

  • Angiography: Once clinical history and blood tests suggest the possibility of FMD, angiography is often performed as the gold standard imaging modality. Angiography reveals the characteristic “string of beads” appearance along the affected arteries, confirming the diagnosis of FMD.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): MRA may be used as a non-invasive alternative to angiography, providing detailed images of the blood vessels, including segmental stenosis indicative of FMD.
  • Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA): Similar to MRA, CTA can visualize the arterial anatomy and detect the characteristic beaded appearance of FMD, aiding in diagnosis and treatment planning.
  • Doppler Ultrasound: Duplex ultrasound or Doppler ultrasound may be employed to assess blood flow velocity and detect abnormalities such as arterial stenosis or dissection, particularly in the renal and carotid arteries affected by FMD.


The management of fibromuscular dysplasia aims to control symptoms, prevent complications, and improve blood flow to affected organs. This include:

1. Medications:

  • Antihypertensive Medications: Controlling blood pressure is crucial in managing FMD. Antihypertensive medications such as ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or beta-blockers may be prescribed to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of complications associated with hypertension.
  • Antiplatelet Agents: Aspirin or other antiplatelet medications may be recommended to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke, particularly in individuals with FMD affecting the carotid arteries.

2. Angioplasty and Stenting:

  • Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty (PTA): Angioplasty involves inserting a catheter with a small balloon into the narrowed artery and inflating it to widen the vessel and improve blood flow. This procedure may be performed in arteries affected by FMD, such as the renal or carotid arteries.
  • Stenting: In some cases, a stent—a small mesh tube—is placed in the artery during angioplasty to help keep it open and prevent re-narrowing (restenosis) of the artery.

3. Surgical Intervention:

  • Arterial Bypass Surgery: In severe cases of FMD with significant arterial involvement or complications such as aneurysm rupture, arterial bypass surgery may be necessary. This procedure involves rerouting blood flow around the affected artery using a graft to restore blood supply to the affected organ.

4. Lifestyle Modifications:

  • Healthy Diet: Adopting a heart-healthy diet low in sodium and saturated fats can help manage hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with FMD.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health, control blood pressure, and alleviate symptoms such as leg pain or discomfort.
  • Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking is essential for individuals with FMD, as smoking can exacerbate arterial damage and increase the risk of complications such as arterial dissection or aneurysm formation.


Untreated or poorly managed fibromuscular dysplasia can lead to various complications, including:

  1. Stroke: Reduced blood flow to the brain increases the risk of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or strokes.
  2. Renal failure: Impaired blood flow to the kidneys can result in kidney dysfunction or failure.
  3. Aneurysm rupture: Weakness in the arterial walls may lead to the formation of aneurysms, which can rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding.

In Summary, fibromuscular dysplasia is a rare but potentially serious vascular condition that requires careful management to prevent complications and improve patient outcomes.

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