Hardening of the renal arteries, also known as renal artery stenosis, is a type of hardening of the arteries in which one or both renal arteries are narrowed. If left untreated, the disease can, in the worst case, lead to kidney failure and thus become life-threatening.
What is renal artery calcification?
Renal artery calcification, as the name suggests, is understood by physicians as a calcification of the renal arteries. Either one or both arteries become narrowed and in this way impair the blood flow. See definitionexplorer for Micropenis Definitions.
Hardening of the renal arteries can either be the trigger for other diseases or can itself occur as a secondary disease. Renal artery stenosis is usually directly related to high blood pressure. It can either precede this or arise later as a consequence of high blood pressure.
Heart disease can also be associated with hardening of the renal arteries, especially coronary artery disease or arterial occlusive disease.
According to statistics, the causes of renal artery calcification in about 80% of cases are general calcification of the arteries in the body.
This is caused by deposits in the vessels, which are favored by an unhealthy lifestyle. If fat and cholesterol are consumed in large quantities over a period of years, they are deposited on the inner walls of the vessels and thus lead to a slow narrowing. As a result of this, there is an increase in high blood pressure.
This process usually takes place in different places in the body and can also affect the renal arteries. Risk factors that promote hardening of the renal arteries include diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, lack of exercise and stress.
symptoms; Complaints & Signs
Renal artery calcification (renal artery stenosis) leads to a narrowing of the renal arteries and thus to an insufficient supply of blood to the kidneys. To prevent this, hormones are released that increase blood pressure. Therefore, at first, the main symptom of renal artery calcification is high blood pressure.
At first, renal artery stenosis goes unnoticed. Both high blood pressure and the narrowing of the renal arteries initially show no symptoms. Unspecific symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, morning headaches, nervousness or visual disturbances can appear later in the event of high blood pressure. Sometimes so-called blood pressure crises occur. Blood pressure crises are characterized by sudden phases of high blood pressure.
In these hypertensive phases, pulmonary edema, reduced physical resilience and severe shortness of breath often occur. In blood pressure crises, the second (diastolic) blood pressure value increases in isolation, while the first (systolic) blood pressure value remains unchanged. Chronically high blood pressure and constant high blood pressure crises damage the kidney tissue over the long term, even leading to renal insufficiency.
The affected kidney shrinks and forms a shriveled kidney. To compensate, the healthy kidney enlarges. After that, all the symptoms of progressive renal failure appear. After an initial increase in urine output, the amount of urine excreted decreases in later stages of kidney disease. In addition to tiredness and reduced performance, there is also pain in the kidney area, headaches, oedema, excruciating itching, nausea, vomiting, bad breath of ammonia and much more.
Diagnosis & History
If renal artery calcification is suspected, the doctor treating you will first measure your blood pressure. A significantly increased diastolic value can indicate calcification. Additional blood and urine tests provide further information about the patient’s state of health, as does an ultrasound of the kidney region.
A detailed discussion of the medical history and lifestyle can also help to make a diagnosis. A hissing noise may be heard when listening to the kidney region with a stethoscope. If renal artery calcification is detected early, it can usually be treated well before permanent damage to the kidneys occurs. If renal artery stenosis has already occurred, the prognosis depends on the degree of damage.
Hardening of the renal arteries (renal artery stenosis) can be treated well in most cases using various methods. However, if left untreated, the disease will continue to progress. This can lead to numerous complications. Due to the narrowing of the renal arteries, the kidneys are initially undersupplied with blood. In order to ensure the normal blood supply, a signal is sent out which causes a general increase in blood pressure in the body.
This leads to the development of chronic high blood pressure. In addition, the renal artery can occlude completely. As a result, there is a risk of chronic renal insufficiency that requires dialysis. The detoxification of the blood can then no longer take place adequately without regular blood washing. Substances that are excreted in the urine enter the blood and can lead to a variety of damage to various organs.
In extreme cases, multi-organ failure can result in death. But chronic high blood pressure can also lead to many secondary diseases, which particularly affect the cardiovascular system. The risk of heart attacks or strokes increases. However, treatment of renal artery stenosis is not always successful.
In the case of fibromuscular renal artery stenosis, blood pressure normalizes in around 75 percent of cases. However, if it was caused by arteriosclerosis, success can sometimes fail to materialize. Furthermore, even after a successful operation, there is still a residual risk of the blood vessel becoming blocked again.
When should you go to the doctor?
Elevated blood pressure, gastrointestinal complaints and shortness of breath indicate hardening of the renal arteries. Anyone who notices the symptoms described should consult a doctor. If the symptoms persist for more than two to three days or get worse within a short time, medical advice must be sought immediately. Calcification of the renal arteries can usually be treated well if it is detected early. The doctor will diagnose the condition through a physical examination and then start treatment.
People who have an unhealthy lifestyle or suffer from kidney disease are among the risk groups and must discuss the typical symptoms with their family doctor. It is also best for people with hormonal or arterial problems to consult a general practitioner. Other contact points are the nephrologist and other specialists for internal diseases. After the initial diagnosis by the specialist, further treatment is usually carried out by the general practitioner. A hospital stay is only necessary for serious complications such as severe kidney pain or blood in the urine.
Treatment & Therapy
If the attending physician has diagnosed renal artery calcification, appropriate therapy must be initiated. In many cases, the disease can be treated quite well by widening the pathologically narrowed arteries.
This is done with the help of a balloon catheter, which is pushed through the bloodstream to the narrowed area. A balloon is inflated there so that the artery expands again and blood can flow normally. It may be necessary for this procedure to take place at several points or even repeatedly.
Especially if the renal artery calcification is caused by permanently high blood pressure, the arteries can narrow again relatively quickly. If this type of treatment does not improve, there is the option of performing a vascular operation in which a so-called bypass is placed. The narrowed artery can be bypassed and the regular blood flow can be ensured again. The doctor treating you can prescribe medication that lowers blood pressure.
However, the kidney function must be checked again and again, as the medication can have a negative effect on it. A healthy lifestyle also helps improve arterial condition and overall health, and should therefore be followed to avoid worsening renal artery calcification.
Outlook & Forecast
People with hardened renal arteries are in a life-threatening condition. The general well-being deteriorates continuously until the organism collapses. Without medical care and medical supervision, the person concerned is at risk of sudden, premature death. Organ failure occurs with ultimately no prospect of recovery. In acute cases, an ambulance must be called so that life-prolonging measures can be initiated.
For a good prognosis, it is crucial that a diagnosis is made as soon as the first irregularities and health impairments occur. Medical treatment will then be initiated as soon as possible. This is the only way to avoid an emergency situation and optimize the blood supply.
In addition to organ failure of the kidneys, the affected person is also threatened with cardiac dysfunction. If there are other disorders of the circulatory system or cardiac activity, the chance of recovery is negligible. Nevertheless, with early treatment, stabilization of the organism can be initiated so that the patient is able to continue living. Long-term therapy and regular check-ups are necessary to achieve relief.
In many cases, the illness and the health impairments it causes cause severe emotional stress. Mental sequelae can occur and thus contribute to a further deterioration in general health.
Since the causes of renal artery calcification in most cases lie in general arterial calcification, it is a preventive measure to significantly minimize the risk factors if possible. In this context, smoking should be stopped and obesity should be reduced. A low-fat and balanced diet has a positive effect on the arteries, as does regular exercise. Existing diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure should definitely be treated to prevent hardening of the renal arteries from developing in the first place.
After the stent implantation, a regular intake of anticoagulant medicine is necessary. A combination of aspirin (ASA) and clopidogrel (Plavix) is usually used for this. While the Plavix can usually be discontinued after several weeks, taking aspirin is usually recommended for life. The drug aspirin reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Approximately four weeks after the implantation, a further examination should be carried out in the vascular surgery outpatient clinic and in the kidney center.
In the course of the examination, the renal artery is examined and the laboratory values are checked. Above all, the arterial blood pressure and the kidney values should be determined here. Further follow-up measures can be carried out by the family doctor or kidney specialists. The follow-up examination should be carried out at regular intervals in order to be able to identify various functional disorders at an early stage.
If there is a suspicion of a renewed illness, further diagnostics should be carried out as soon as possible. As a rule, the cause of the renal artery stenosis can be successfully eliminated – provided the disorder is recognized quickly and rapid steps are taken to treat it. Because the longer the stenosis with high blood pressure was untreated, the lower the chance of a successful blood pressure reduction. In addition, untreated renal artery stenosis is often accompanied by a gradual loss of function and shrinkage of the kidney.
You can do that yourself
Renal artery stenosis is often triggered by existing hardening of the arteries in the body, which in turn is caused by permanently elevated blood pressure. In order to reduce high blood pressure and thus the risk of further calcium deposits in the renal arteries, a change in lifestyle is crucial in addition to drug treatment.
In addition, it is important to reduce obesity and avoid high-fat and processed foods, especially those containing saturated fat, as they increase LDL cholesterol levels, which are considered dangerous. Saturated fats are found in all animal products, but are found in large amounts in fast food, chips, pastries and confectionery. The menu should therefore be balanced and consist mainly of freshly prepared food. Various studies have also shown the positive effect of red wine on the blood vessels, although consumption should be limited to a maximum of two glasses a day.
If you already have hardening of the renal arteries, it is also advisable to refrain from smoking and to exercise. Sports such as swimming, cycling and Nordic walking are useful, but especially walks in the forest, as they not only support the cardiovascular system positively, but also demonstrably help to reduce stress. Stress reduction can also be achieved through regular practice of meditation, yoga, and adequate sleep.