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Report: Vascular Disease Affecting Women 'Poorly Understood' by Health Care Providers

Disorder can cause hypertension, kidney failure, and stroke (February 25)

A vascular disease called fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) — which can cause hypertension, kidney failure, stroke, and other symptoms, mostly in women — is “poorly understood by many health care providers,” according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

The disorder can cause narrowing, enlargement, bulging, or tears in medium-size arteries. FMD occurs most commonly in arteries leading to the kidneys and in carotid arteries in the neck. It can also affect arteries supplying blood to the abdominal organs, legs, or arms.

Neurological complications include headaches, neck pain, tinnitus, strokes, and transient ischemic attacks (“mini-strokes”). FMD may be a predisposing condition for cervical arterial dissections. It can also cause brain aneurysms.

FMD “is poorly understood by many health care providers,” the scientific statement said, and a delay in diagnosis “can lead to impaired quality of life and poor outcomes.”

Although the prevalence of FMD in the general population is unknown, 91% of patients with the disorder are female, the statement said. Although the cause is unknown, there appears to be a genetic basis for susceptibility to FMD.

FMD often is misdiagnosed as another condition, such as atherosclerosis or vasculitis. The gold standard for correctly diagnosing the disorder is a catheter-based angiogram, the statement noted.

Source: Loyola Medicine; February 25, 2014.

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