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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: What You Should Know

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: What You Should Know

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: What You Should Know

A serious medical condition affecting the main artery in the abdomen is an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This blood vessel may grow weak, bulge over time, and approach a life-threatening point where there is a need for quick medical attention. This condition affects 1.4% of U.S. adults age 50 – 84, and is four times more likely to be an issue with men than women.

We understand the importance of making information about abdominal aortic aneurysm accessible to both men and women. In recognition of Men’s Health Month this June, we have dedicated a blog post to this topic, as there is no better time to raise awareness about this serious condition.

Understanding Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

It is possible for the aorta, a major artery in the human body that runs from the heart through the chest and abdomen to the waistline, to become enlarged or out into a balloon-like shape, which is known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm. There are many reasons why this might occur:

  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the arteries)
  • Genetic factors
  • Smoking
  • Advanced age

If not treated, abdominal aortic aneurysms can keep increasing in size and, at times, break open.This condition can be life-threatening, and it requires urgent medical attention and a specific procedure to ensure the best possible outcome.

Recognizing The Symptoms and Red Flags

Abdominal aortic aneurysm often grows slowly and silently without any noticeable symptoms in the early stages, but develops apparent signs as it enlarges. These are:

  • Abdominal or back pain: When an aneurysm grows, it might put pressure on the nearby tissues and nerves, leading to constant or severe pain felt around the belly area or at the lower part of your back.
  • A pulsating feeling in the abdomen: A noticeable, throbbing sensation in the abdomen may be felt, especially when lying down. This occurs because the aneurysm causes the aorta to bulge and pulsate with each heartbeat.
  • Difficulty swallowing: The esophagus may be under pressure from an aneurysm located near the diaphragm, causing difficulty swallowing. Although this symptom is less frequent, it could result from the effect of the aneurysm on other organs and structures.

If any of these warning signs are present, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention as this could be life-threatening.

Screening and Prevention

For spotting abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in its initial stages and considering treatment strategies that are more effective, routine screening is vital. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the incidence rate of AAA is higher among males, especially those between 65 and 75 years old with a background of tobacco smoking. Despite this, every person should know about the risks and screening protocols associated with it, including women.

While more frequent checkups are advised in cases of aortic aneurysm due to either family history or any associated risk factors, you may also prevent such problems by leading a healthy life:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing high blood pressure
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

All these actions can help reduce your risk of developing this condition.

Treatment Options

Should medical tests confirm the suspicion of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, its management will be guided by its severity in both the length and rate at which it grows.

When results show relatively small changes during imaging tests, physicians may advise waiting for some time to watch closely by observing anything unusual, including changes that can tell swelling in the aorta is becoming larger quickly. On rare occasions, large, rapidly enlarging arterial dilations require operative intervention so as to avoid deaths that are likely to result from the spontaneous tear of an aorta near its branches. This surgical procedure could be done using the traditional open technique for major aortic clamping or using a less invasive endovascular repair method.

Activities to Avoid with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

If warning signs of abdominal aortic aneurysm are present, we recommend avoiding certain activities that can exacerbate the symptoms by putting extra pressure on the aorta. These include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Intense physical exercise
  • Straining during bowel movements

For every particular situation, it is always advisable to get help from your healthcare provider. Among the things that they will do is advise on some gentle exercises that are safe for someone who has a common abdominal aortic aneurysm and that won’t compromise its stability.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Summarized

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a grave health risk that calls for awareness and caution. Several steps are vital to controlling and preventing the disease, including understanding its symptoms, recognizing danger signs, as well as learning about screening processes and treatment alternatives.

At  Eileen West, MD and Associates, we are committed to providing useful information about conditions like abdominal aortic aneurysm. We care for our patients and want to help them live healthy and informed lives. If you or your loved ones have concerns or risk factors for an AAA, schedule a screening and consult with a healthcare provider. Early detection and treatment can make all the difference.

Stay informed, stay healthy, and take control of your cardiovascular health today!

Eileen West, MD, FACP, NCMP, CCD

Leading the way in women's healthcare is renowned board-certified internal medicine doctor Dr. Eileen West. She has over 20 years of experience and is recognized for her expertise in menopause, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease prevention. Her excellence-driven compassionate approach, which is associated with the American College of Physicians, improves the lives of her patients by putting a strong emphasis on their overall well-being.

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Areas of Expertise: Women's Health, Menopause Management, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Treatment.

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