An abdominal aortic aneurysm happens when an area of your aorta becomes very large or balloons out. Your aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your abdomen, pelvis, and legs.
The exact causes of an abdominal aneurysm are not known. The only thing that is definite is that it happens when there is weakness in the wall of your artery.
If the following factors apply to you, you may have an increased risk of developing an abdominal aneurysm:
- Being Male: Men tend to develop abdominal aneurysms much more often than women do.
- Consuming Tobacco and Cigarettes: Smoking can damage your aorta and weaken your aorta’s walls.
- Inheriting Certain Genetic Factors: If you have a family history of abdominal aneurysms, you are at increased risk of having the same condition.
- Having High Blood Pressure: This can damage and weaken your aorta’s walls.
- Other aneurysms. If you have had an aneurysm in another large blood vessel, like as the artery behind your knee or your thoracic aorta, you may have a higher risk of developing an abdominal aneurysm.
Abdominal aneurysms are most often seen in males who are over the age of sixty and identify with one or more risk factors linked to abdominal aneurysms. The larger your aneurysm is, the more likely it is to tear or break open. If this happens, it can be life-threatening and is considered an emergency medical situation.
Because aneurysms can develop very slowly over many years, and often with no symptoms, your may experience abrupt symptoms that come on quickly, especially if an aneurysm expands rapidly, leaks blood within the wall of the vessel, or tears open. The following symptoms may indicate a ruptured aneurysm:
- Abdominal or Back Pain: This pain may be sudden, severe, and constant. It could also spread to your groin, legs, or buttocks.
- Clammy Skin
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Passing Out
- Rapid Heart Rate
Your doctor will examine your abdomen and check the pulses in your legs. They will be looking to see if you have a lump/mass in your abdomen or a stiff or rigid abdomen. They will also try to and feel if there a pulsating sensation in your abdomen.
If your aneurysm is small and you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, surgery is rarely performed. You and your doctor will have to compare and weigh two risks: the risk of having surgery should be smaller than your risk of internal bleeding. From that point forward, your doctor may want to check the size of your aneurysm with ultrasound testing every six months. If you are bleeding internally from an aortic aneurysm, you will need surgery as soon as possible. Most of the time, doctors perform surgery if an aneurysm is bigger than two inches or if it is growing quickly. The goal for this type of disease is to do surgery as soon as you can, well before complications (like blockages and ruptures) develop.
Two types of surgeries are used to treat this condition:
- Open Repair: A large cut is made in your abdomen, and your abnormal vessel (an aneurysm) is replaced with a graft of man-made material.
- Endovascular Stent Grafting: This is a procedure that is done without making a large cut, which ensures a quicker recovery time. Older adults and those with certain other medical conditions may benefit from the added safety this approach provides. A leaking or bleeding aneurysm can sometimes be treated with endovascular repair.
Reduce Your Risk
To reduce your risk of developing an aneurysm, make sure you are eating a heart healthy diet, getting enough exercise, staying away from tobacco products and smoking, and finding ways to reduce your stress levels. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, take your medicine exactly as your doctor has instructed you to.
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