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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Risk Factors

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an abnormal and persistent dilation of the aortic blood vessel. It’s a condition that can affect any person and produce serious consequences.

Older adults are more at risk of suffering this pathology because their arterial walls are laxer and elastic. Just the same, there have been cases among young people, which have to do with genetic problems and secondary conditions that lead to this problem.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this condition.

What is an aortic aneurism?

The aortic aneurism is the largest artery in the entire human body. It begins on the left side of the heart and is responsible for transporting blood to the entire body.

So, what are we talking about when we refer to the abdominal aorta?

It’s the part of this artery that crosses the abdomen, just in front of the spinal column. It stretches from the diaphragm muscle down to the level of the fourth lumbar vertebrae.

On the other hand, an aneurysm is an area of the artery that dilates. In other words, the walls of the blood vessel are dilated and weakened, and at greater risk of tearing.

It’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about the blood vessel with the greatest caliber in the entire body. In other words, it transports more blood and with more pressure than any other blood vessel. Therefore, the risk of rupture is a major source of concern for those with an aortic aneurysm.

Risk factors for an abdominal aortic aneurysm

While this can occur in any person, certain factors or habits increase a person’s risk. Similarly, there are risk factors that, in patients with an aneurysm, increase their risk of rupture.

These factors include the following:

  • Men are four times more likely to develop an aneurysm than women.
  • A family history of aneurysm. There are certain genetic factors involved in the inheritance of this pathology.
  • Smoking. Tobacco has many harmful effects on the body. Among these, toxins that one ingests while smoking causes the blood vessels to become more rigid and fragile. This increases a person’s chances of suffering rupture if they have an aneurysm.
  • High cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Just like tobacco, both of these factors damage the arterial walls, making them more susceptible to rupture.
  • High blood pressure. In cases of hypertension, the blood circulates with more pressure within the arteries. This pressure passes on directly to the vessel walls, forcing them to be more resistant.

What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

In general, these aneurysms develop slowly over time. It’s very rare for them to develop quickly. However, when rupture occurs, the situation becomes urgent and may mark the beginning and the discovery of the illness.

During the slow development, there are no symptoms. When a rupture occurs, it may be small. Symptoms may appear and then gradually intensify over time. In the case of a large tear, the appearance of symptoms will be more abrupt.

Some symptoms of arterial rupture are the following:

  • Abdominal pain that may radiate toward the lumbar region of the back
  • A decrease in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Cold sweats
  • Difficulty breathing and accelerated heart rate

Diagnosis and treatment

If the aneurysm doesn’t tear, then detection usually takes place accidentally during diagnostic imaging. For example, it may occur during an ultrasound, CAT Scan, or X-ray due to some other issue.

Once diagnosed, treatment involves preventing rupture, and will depend on the size of the aneurysm. Some methods include strict blood pressure control and regulating cholesterol levels. Of course, doctors encourage patients with aneurysms to stay away from tobacco.

In some cases, it’s best to treat an aneurysm surgically. For example, if an aneurysm is large–greater than 2 inches-or growing quickly. The same is true if a patient presents many risk factors that could lead to rupture.

Finally, if an aneurysm has already ruptured, then emergency surgery will necessary.

The risk of rupture

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a condition that occurs with a frequency that we shouldn’t take lightly. If diagnosed early on, patients can usually avoid complications through preventative treatment and careful control.

However, if the abdominal aorta ruptures, then rapid diagnosis and urgent surgery will be necessary to avoid a fatal situation. Keeping blood pressure under control, reducing blood cholesterol levels, and avoiding tobacco are fundamental in preventing rupture.

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