Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD): Uncommon Disease with Common Symptoms (Video)

Women are most at risk for fibromuscular dysplasia

woman holding her head in hands

You may not have heard of a disease called fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), but it may be more common than you think. New research has found more about how FMD affects a person’s arteries and that women are most at risk.

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Heather Gornik, MD, who co-authored the study, says, “I definitely think FMD is underdiagnosed and I think one of the issues is that some of the symptoms of FMD are somewhat vague and also very common.”

She says symptoms of FMD commonly include:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Ringing or swooshing noise in the ears
  • Dizziness

“These are symptoms that commonly take patients to the doctor but a doctor may not be thinking about this unusual disorder,” Dr. Gornik says.

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How does FMD affect people’s arteries? When someone has FMD, the artery walls contain lesions that may narrow the arteries themselves, making it difficult for blood to flow freely. FMD can also cause weakness of the arteries, leading to aneurysms or tears in the artery wall. It was previously thought that FMD mainly affected kidney arteries, but this study shows that FMD also affects arteries that feed the brain. The research also points to women being most at risk.

“By identifying patients with FMD and by screening them for brain aneurysms, we hope we can intervene earlier before they present with severe symptoms or even a stroke,” says Dr. Gornik, who treats patients with FMD at Cleveland Clinic.

If you’re under 40 years old and have high blood pressure, or if you have migraine headaches, dizziness or a swooshing sound in your ears at any age, she recommends that patients ask their doctors if they should be screened for FMD.

Complete results can be found in the journal Circulation.

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More information

Chat with a Doctor Transcript: Fibromuscular Displasia (FMD)
Fibromuscular Displasia (FMD)

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