Renal Artery Stenosis

What is Renal Artery Stenosis?

Renal Artery Stenosis is characterized by the progressive narrowing of at least one of the arteries that supplies blood to the kidneys. The kidneys require good blood flow to properly removetoxins and excess liquid from the bloodstream.

Renal artery stenosis can lead to uncontrollable high blood pressure or renal failure. It can be caused by fatty deposits in the renal arteries, a renal artery or aorta tear or fibromuscular dysplasia.

What are the Symptoms of Renal Artery Stenosis?

A partial renal artery blockage may not produce symptoms. However, as the disease progresses it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications. Symptoms of renal artery stenosis may include:

  • Sudden onset high blood pressure
  • Early or late-onset high blood pressure (before 30 or after 55 years of age)
  • High blood pressure that becomes uncontrollable
  • Irregular sounding renal blood flow
  • Gradually decreasing kidney function
  • Water retention
  • Heart failure that doesn’t respond to treatment

Renal Artery Stenosis Causes

Renal artery stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the arteries that lead to one or both of a person’s kidneys. It has two main causes.

In over 90% of cases renal artery stenosis is caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a process where things like fats, cholesterol and other plaques build up on the artery walls. This gradually restricts the blood flow more and more until it reaches dangerous levels.

Renal artery stenosis can also be caused by fibromuscular dysplasia, though this only occurs in less than 10% of cases. Fibromuscular dysplasia is when the muscles in the artery wall grow abnormally and apply pressure on the artery causing it to narrow. The pressure can be irregular along the artery causing narrower and wider sections, sometimes giving the artery a beadlike appearance.

How is Renal Artery Stenosis Treated?

The treatment of a renal artery blockage may include high blood pressure control methods. They may include:

  • Lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise, quitting smoking)
  • Diuretics
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha-beta blockers
  • Beta blockers
  • Diuretics

Other treatments for renal artery blockage may include:

  • Angioplasty and stent implant
  • Renal artery bypass
  • Removal of plaque (endarterectomy)

Renal Artery Stenosis Prevention

There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing renal artery stenosis.

As with many things, smoking significantly increases the risk of the condition developing. It can be very tough to quit, but many people do. There are now also a variety of stop smoking aids available through doctors. It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol intake.

Being overweight, diabetic, and having hypertension are also all risk factors for developing the condition. Fortunately these conditions can all be managed by the same activities. Ensure you’re eating well – eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, reduce your intake of sugary foods like desserts and white rice or bread. Stay away from heavily processed foods and red meat when possible.

Exercise has also been shown to be effective in preventing these conditions. Even just a brisk 30 minute walk three or four times a week can show impressive positive results. The exercise can be broken up into smaller chunks of time if needed.

Reducing stress can also reduce the risk. Try cutting out major stressors and doing relaxing activities, like walking in nature or doing art. There are also studies showing that probiotics, like those found in yogurt and unpasteurized fermented foods such as sauerkraut and fermented pickles, can reduce stress and anxiety.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
December 07, 2017