While an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) sounds very serious, learning more can help you prepare for the possibility. Here are six things you need to know about the symptoms and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Did you know that an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) accounts for more than 1 in 50 deaths for men over age 65? Here are some more facts about AAA.
Generally speaking, an aneurysm is any outward bulging or swelling in a blood vessel, most often caused by localized weakness. AAA is an aneurysm in the aorta, the main blood vessel leading away from the heart.
The abdominal aorta is one of the largest blood vessels in the body, usually around 2 cm wide. This is roughly the width of a garden hose! In AAA, this width can expand to over 5.5 cm wide in extreme cases.
If a large aneurysm like this were to burst, it would cause huge internal bleeding and usually be fatal.
In most cases, an unruptured AAA causes no noticeable symptoms. If it expands, you may experience feelings of persistent back pain, stomach pain, or a pulsating feeling in the stomach.
A ruptured aneurysm causes massive internal bleeding that is almost always fatal. 8 out of 10 people with a ruptured AAA die before reaching the hospital or don’t survive surgery.
The exact cause of AAA remains unknown, although the biggest risk factors appear to be age and gender. Men 65 years old or older are the most at-risk group.
However, other potential factors can increase your risk further, like smoking, cholesterol level, or otherwise having high blood pressure.
Similarly, if you have a family history of AAA, you have an increased risk of developing one yourself.
Now we know what AAA is, its symptoms, and what causes it. With that in mind, what is the best way to diagnose, treat, or ideally prevent an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
AAA is usually diagnosed due to a screening or during a routine examination. Usually, this will be when your general practitioner notices a pulsating sensation in your abdomen.
This screening is usually done using an ultrasound scan to measure the size of your abdominal aorta. The doctor will use this information, combined with your history and other information, to make an informed diagnosis.
If a large AAA is detected before rupturing, treatment options are available. Usually, this is done with surgery, replacing the weakened section of the vessel with synthetic tubing.
However, there are also non-surgical treatments available for those who can’t receive surgery. These can include medication to adjust your cholesterol and blood pressure and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking.
If detected, the size of the aneurysm should also be checked regularly with ultrasound scanning. This way, any changes to size or diameter can be noticed before they worsen and lead to a rupture.
Developing AAA or worsening it is best prevented by avoiding activities that could damage your blood vessels.
Talk to your doctor or medical provider for more information or in-depth advice. However, they may advocate quitting smoking, reducing fat intake in your diet, exercising regularly, and losing weight.
Not only will all these activities specifically reduce your risks related to AAA, but they’ll generally improve your health and wellness.
If you’re worried about your risk for AAA, you may want to schedule a screening with a vascular specialist. If you live in the South San Joaquin Valley, that screening would be best done with South Valley Vascular.