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How Serious Is an Aortic Aneurysm?
We can conduct early screenings for an aortic aneurysm to help people with a high risk for this condition receive the necessary care. An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the body's largest artery that carries blood from the heart to the chest and abdomen. This condition can be serious and even life-threatening. The following article examines the nature and causes of this condition, along with risk factors and what patients can do to protect their lives and health.
What is an aortic aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm is a condition where the aorta's wall weakens and bulges outwards. The aorta is a candy cane-shaped artery that extends from the left ventricle up into the chest and arches down into the abdomen until it reaches the pelvis, where it branches off into smaller arteries. An aneurysm can happen anywhere along this artery, but there are two main types. Thoracic aortic aneurysms can occur in the chest. However, abdominal aortic aneurysms below the chest are significantly more common.
Dangers of an aortic aneurysm
An aortic aneurysm does not always pose a serious health risk. However, the larger the bulge becomes, the larger its health risk. An aortic aneurysm can become life-threatening if it dissects or ruptures. Dissection happens when the force of the blood pumping through the aorta splits the artery walls allowing blood to link between them. A rupture is when the aneurysm bursts, leading to bleeding inside the body. Most deaths from aortic aneurysms are a result of dissection or rupture.
Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm
The rupture or dissection of an aortic aneurysm is a life-threatening emergency, and it is important to know the potential signs. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, common symptoms include lightheadedness, rapid heart rate, and sudden and severe pain in the stomach, chest, or back. If a patient knows they have an aortic aneurysm and is experiencing these symptoms, they should call 911 immediately.
Unfortunately, aortic aneurysms can often be silent until they present a serious problem. Many people do not have symptoms until the aneurysm becomes large enough to affect other body parts. As the aneurysm grows, symptoms may include difficulty swallowing or breathing, feeling full after not eating much, hoarseness, pain, a throbbing in the stomach area, and swelling n the face, neck, or arms.
Causes and risk factors
Because this condition can be silent, patients must be proactive about screening and treatment if they are at risk. Causes of these aneurysms are not always known but can include infection, injury, narrowing of the arteries, and certain hereditary conditions. According to the Cleveland Clinic, those at high risk for this condition include:
- Those over 65
- Cisgendered males
- Those with hypertension
- Anyone with a family history of aortic aneurysms
Those who suspect they have an aortic aneurysm or have several of these risk factors should talk to their doctor about screening and treatment.
Screening and treatment
Fortunately, aortic aneurysms are treatable, and with the right care, ruptures and dissections can be prevented. For those at high risk, a provider may do an imaging test to check for the condition, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound. If an aneurysm is found, the provider will monitor it closely and may prescribe medication to manage blood pressure and cholesterol. Larger aneurysms may require surgery.
In addition, there are steps the patient can take to help prevent this condition from developing or worsening. Developing a healthy lifestyle is the most important step a person can take. Those who smoke should quit, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. Talking to a doctor about a heart-healthy diet is also important.
Know your risk and take action
Talk to a doctor about your risk for aortic aneurysm. With proper monitoring and treatment, this condition can be easily managed. Call our team today to learn more about aortic aneurysm prevention and treatment.
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