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Overview of Blood Vessel Disorders of the Kidneys

by Zhiwei Zhang, MD

The blood flow to the kidneys needs to be intact for the kidneys to function properly. Any interruption of or reduction in the blood flow can cause kidney damage or dysfunction and, if long-standing, increased blood pressure (hypertension). When blood flow in the arteries supplying the kidneys is completely blocked, the entire kidney or a portion of the kidney supplied by that artery dies (kidney infarction). Kidney infarction can lead to the inability of the kidneys to process and excrete the body's waste products (kidney failure).

Blood vessel disorders of the kidneys have a number of causes, including blockages in the renal arteries or veins (see Blockage of the Renal Arteries and see Renal Vein Thrombosis), inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis—see also Overview of Vasculitis), injury to the kidneys or blood vessels, and other disorders. For example, systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and sickle cell anemia can affect the kidneys, sometimes leading to chronic kidney disease. Systemic sclerosis that affects the kidneys can also cause a hypertensive emergency (malignant hypertension—see High Blood Pressure).

Kidney's Blood Supply

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