FMD: Mysterious Disease in Women


Fibromuscular dysplasia, or FMD for short, is up to ten times more common in women than in men.

But it’s often overlooked because patients and their doctors have a hard time identifying the symptoms.

Here’s what you need to know about this rare and mysterious disease. 

Nurse Mary Lou Lucas has spent her career helping others understand their medical problems. But she was stumped when doctors diagnosed her with fibromuscular dysplasia.

“You have what? What is that? A lot of people that I worked with never heard of it,” Lucas told Ivanhoe.

FMD happens when fibrous tissue inside a person’s artery walls builds-up and creates a string of beads.

It can cause stroke, heart attack, or aneurysm.

Lucas said, “There was a complete blockage in one of my vessels. Oh, I was scared to death.”

Heather Gornik, M.D., a vascular medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, wants to get the word out about this serious, but not well-known, disease.

Dr. Gornik told Ivanhoe, “It’s a condition that affects mainly women; about 95 percent of our patients are women.”

Migraine headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness, and a swishing sound in the ears are the main signs.

“I think it’s really sad that it takes three or more years for a patient with symptoms to get a diagnosis,” said Dr. Gornik.

Dr. Gornik helped start a registry that tracks patients with FMD. She wants to help other doctors learn the signs so they can identify the condition. Medication and surgery are often needed to treat it. The sooner it’s diagnosed the better.

Lucas eats right, exercises and sees her doctor regularly.

Lucas said, “I would encourage good follow-up and proactive health care.”

Her disease is under control and she wants to keep it that way.

FMD can be diagnosed with vascular imaging tests such as ultrasounds, CT scans or MRI scans to look at the arteries. Doctors aren’t sure what causes the condition but suspect that hormones, genes and other factors play a role. FMD is most common in women between ages 40 and 60 but it can also occur in children and the elderly. Although rare, men can also have FMD.


TOPIC:           FMD: Mystery Disease in Women 
REPORT: MB #4099

BACKGROUND: According to the Mayo clinic, Fibromuscular dysplasia, or FMD, is a condition that causes narrowing and enlargement of the medium-sized arteries in your body. The protruding and thinning areas occur next to each other in the body and can cause the artery to narrow so much that the organs that receive blood from the artery are impaired. This condition can also cause other complications including high blood pressure and tears of the artery, which can cause dissection if it is left untreated. Most commonly, FMD is found in the arteries leading to the kidneys. However, it can also affect the arteries leading to your brain, abdomen, arms and legs. There is no cure for FMD, but it can be treated. (Source:

SYMPTOMS: Most people with FMD have no symptoms and often don’t know they have it. But, it is possible to have some signs of the condition. The signs depend on what artery is affected.
If the arteries leading to the kidneys are affected signs may include:
* High blood pressure
* Tissue damage in the kidney
* Rarely, chronic kidney failure
If the arteries leading to your brain are affected signs may include:
* Headache, dizziness, chronic headaches
* Blurred vision or temporary loss of vision
* Constant ringing in your ears
* Neck pain
* Facial weakness or numbness
If the arteries leading to your abdomen are affected signs may include:
* Abdominal pain after eating
* Unintended weight loss
If the arteries leading to your arms and legs are affected signs may include:
* Discomfort when moving your arms, legs, hands or feet
* Cold limbs
* Weakness or numbness
* Skin changes in color or appearance

WHEN YOU SHOULD SEE A DOCTOR: If you have any of these symptoms and are concerned you should check with your doctor. FMD is hereditary; if there is a family history of FMD you should inform your doctor. If you have FMD and experience sudden changes in your vision, ability to speak, or weakness in your arms or legs, it is recommended you seek medical attention immediately. 

Andrea Pacetti

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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