Aortic Aneurysm: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

The heart is one of the most important organs of the body as it helps circulating blood through the body. The Aorta is the largest artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Though it is tough and durable, sometimes it gets weak and causes a condition called Aortic Aneurysm. In this condition, an abnormal bulge occurs on the wall of Aorta (the major artery or blood vessels). Due to this condition, the blood spills into the body caused by a leak. 

In some cases, the Aortic Aneurysm burst and in some cases, it won’t burst. And, in other cases, it forces the blood away from the tissues and organs leading to many conditions such as stroke, kidney damage, heart attack, etc. 

Aortic Aneurysm increases the chances of developing aortic dissection, in which a tear occurs in the inner layer of the aorta wall. This can separate one or more layers of the aorta wall. Aortic Aneurysm also increases the chances of developing Aneurysm burst, where it completely bursts, causing bleeding in the body.

Types of Aortic Aneurysm

Cells-Flow-Through-Artery-1

Generally, an Aortic Aneurysm can develop anywhere and be in round-shaped (saccular) or tube-shaped (fusiform).  Other common types of Aortic Aneurysm are:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: In this condition, the bulge develops on the aorta walls that passes through the abdomen. It is more common than a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, this type of Aortic Aneurysm usually affects men and people above 65 years. Generally, this type of Aneurysm caused due to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), but infection or injury can also cause this condition
  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: In this condition, the bulge develops in the aorta walls that passes through the chest cavity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimation, the risk of this type of Aneurysm increases with age and equally affects both males and females. This type of Aortic Aneurysm caused due to high blood pressure or some genetic problems like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and  Marfan syndrome.
  • Other types of Aneurysm: Aneurysms can develop in other body parts as well. This includes Aneurysm in the brain which can lead to stroke. Peripheral aneurysms, where the arteries that pass through the neck, groin, spleen, or behind the knees get affected. 

Some Common Facts About Aortic Aneurysm

  • In an Aortic Aneurysm, a balloon-like bulge is formed in the wall of the aorta which helps in carrying blood from the heart through the body (upper body and torso).
  • Aortic Aneurysm can rupture or dissect.
  • According to the CDC, 9,928 deaths were reported in 2017 due to Aortic Aneurysm.
  • And, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute report, 13,000 deaths occur in the United States every year due to Aortic Aneurysm.
  • About 60% of deaths due to an Aortic Aneurysm were reported to happen among men.
  • About 75% of all abdominal Aortic Aneurysm reported having a history of smoking.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men 65 to 75 years old with a history of smoking or currently smoking should get an ultrasound screening even if there is no visible symptoms as they are more prone to develop abdominal Aortic Aneurysm.

Causes of Aortic Aneurysm

Cause-of-Aortic-Aneurysm

Aortic Aneurysm usually caused due to unhealthy behaviors or diseases that rupture the heart vessels or damage the heart. High blood pressure, atherosclerosis (Plaque development in arteries), infection, High cholesterol, vasculitis (vascular inflammation), Sudden traumatic injury, etc., are some of the problems that increase the chances of developing an Aortic Aneurysm. Further, risk factors include smoking and inherited disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome. The chances of getting this disease increase if a person has a history of this problem.

Other risk factors are:

  • Male gender
  • Overweight or obese
  • Age above 60
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking tobacco products

Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm 

Sometimes, there are no symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm, however, some patient experience some symptoms which include:

Symptoms of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm:

  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain 
  • Upper back or chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Trouble in swallowing

Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm:

  • Pulsating enlargement
  • Back pain
  • Abdomen pain
  • Groin pain
  • Pain in buttocks or legs
  • Throbbing sensation near naval
  • Sweaty or clammy  skin
  • loss of consciousness
  • increased heart rate

Diagnosis of Aortic Aneurysm

Diagnosis-of-Aortic-Aneurysm

To diagnose this condition, the doctor may perform certain tests such as Echocardiogram, X-ray, CT-scan, or ultrasound. They sometimes monitor the growth of aneurysm on an annual basis. Apart from that, routine screening or tests are also done to check for any genetic abnormalities, conditions, or underlying problems. 

The Doctors also take tests to determine the blood pressure and cholesterol level in the blood. Once the condition is diagnosed, doctors advise suitable treatments.

Conclusion

Aortic Aneurysm is an abnormal bulging of the aorta wall that can occur anywhere in the vascular tree. People experiencing any visible symptoms should consult a professional doctor as soon as possible.

FAQ About Aortic Aneurysm

There are three types of aneurysms: 

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms which are also known as ‘Triple-A’,
  • Thoracic aortic aneurysms, and 
  • Cerebral aneurysms

Marfan syndrome is a type of genetic disorder that impacts the connective tissue, which supports and attaches organs and other body structures. It plays an essential part in supporting the body to grow and develop accurately. Marfan syndrome mostly hits the blood vessels, heart, eyes and skeleton.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a combination of acquired disorders that affect connective tissue, the skin, blood vessels walls, and joints. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome incorporates excessively flexible joints that are prone to fractures, increases the skin elasticity and the chances of bruises. 

Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm is a weakness and swelling in the surface of the aorta that spreads from the chest to the abdomen. Being the largest blood vessel in the body, aorta carries blood from the heart to the rest part of the body. Thoracoabdominal aneurysms are usually one of the most complicated aortic aneurysms to handle due to the complexity of its location.

The common risk factors of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm include:

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking is the biggest risk factor of abdominal aortic aneurysm. It weakens the aortic walls, raising the risk of forming an aortic aneurysm and displacement. The more you consume tobacco, the higher are the possibilities of developing an aortic aneurysm.
  • Age: The aneurysms happen most often in people age 65 and older.
  • Family History: Possessing a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms raises the risk of having the disorder.
  • Other Aneurysms: Aneurysms in different large blood vessels, like the aorta in the chest or the artery behind the knee, might enhance the risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

References

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