According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, doctors learn in medical school that fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a rare disease. But physicians who specialize in vascular medicine think that as many as 3% to 5% of Americans have this strange condition that causes the walls of arteries to grow inward, toward the center of the vessel, blocking blood flow. This can happen in any artery--including those that feed the brain, heart, and kidneys. The first sympton is sometimes the last one--sudden death. FMD was first described in 1938, but it was listed as a cause of stroke by the National Stroke Association only in 2005. Apparently, not everyone who has FMD will run into trouble, but doctors have a lot to learn about this condition. A good first step would be for them to start unlearning some of the things they were taught about FMD in med school. Here's an excerpt from Thomas Burton's excellent article (Dr. Olin, a professor at Mt. Sinai Medical School in NYC, is one of the world's few authorities on the condition):
Dr. Olin has prepared a top-10 list of doctors' misconceptions and missteps. They include, "Telling patients that the symptoms are all in their head. Telling patients that FMD is a rare disease. Telling patients with severe headaches with FMD that there is nothing that you can do for them."
The signs of FMD are frequently the same: young patients with high blood pressure, or who have had a stroke or temporary symptoms of a stroke; patients whose blood makes a swishing sound indicating turbulent flow; or patients with brain aneurysms.
You can find more information at the Fibromuscular Dysplasia Society of America and MayoClinic.com. Dr. Olin co-authored a review article about the condition in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004; it's written for doctors, but you can get something out of it even if you don't wear a stethoscope to work.