Hypertension can be caused by genetics, diet, tobacco use or weight gain. In these circumstances, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication can bring blood pressure numbers back into a normal range.
But what about when you’ve tried just about everything – losing weight, eliminating salt, throwing out your cigarettes, faithfully taking medications – and your blood pressure is still dangerously high?
That’s when it’s time to consider Renal Artery Disease (RAD) as a possible cause.
Your renal arteries branch from your abdominal aorta to your kidneys, supplying them with blood. Renal arteries are about 4-6 centimeters, or 2 inches, long and about 5-6 millimeters, about a quarter inch, in diameter. They sit just above your waist in your abdomen.
Just like peripheral artery disease (PAD), most cases of RAD are caused by atherosclerosis – plaque clogging the arteries. Plaque is formed when cholesterol, fat, calcium, cellular waste and fibrin, which your body uses in blood clotting, gather and adhere to artery walls.
This causes atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the space within your arteries through which blood flows. When atherosclerosis narrows your renal arteries, your kidneys don’t get the oxygen they require to filter wastes. They have a difficult time secreting renin, a hormone which helps to regulate blood pressure.
Untreated RAD can result in kidney failure.
Symptoms of RAD include:
• High blood pressure beginning before 30 years of age
• High blood pressure beginning after 50 years of age
• High blood pressure that suddenly worsens, or suddenly begins
• High blood pressure that cannot be controlled with medication, diet, exercise or other lifestyle changes
Risk factors for RAD include:
• Over 50 years of age
• Tobacco use
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Family history of peripheral artery disease
• Family history of renal artery disease
• Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
Your Vascular Specialists medical professional will screen for RAD with an ultrasound, MRA, CTA, captopril renal scanning or angiogram, depending upon health history and physical condition.
Treatments for RAD include medication, renal angioplasty, surgery, endarterectomy or bypass, depending upon the severity of blockage.