An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the aorta wall that can be compared with a bulge on an over-inflated inner tube. The aorta is the main artery that leaves the left chamber of the heart. It goes downward from the chest and through the abdomen and continues into the pelvis. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. When there is an aneurysm in the aorta is a very serious condition. Every artery has three layers that make up the walls. The outermost wall of the aorta is called the adventitia. The middle wall is called the media and the inner wall is called the intima. An aortic aneurysm will involve all three walls. If only the two outer walls are involved it is not a true aneurysm and this condition us normally called a false aneurysm. The majority of the aneurysms affect people who are over the age of 55. Men are more likely than women to develop an aortic aneurysm.
There are about 15,000 people in the United States that die from an aortic aneurysm every year. It is the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S. If an aneurysm along the aorta ruptures it can cause fatal internal bleeding and blood clotting in the heart, brain or lungs. There are basically two types of aortic aneurysms. These types are named after the location along the aorta that has the aneurysm or bulge. Sometimes people are not aware that they have an aortic aneurysm. This is why this condition is called the silent killer. If an aneurysm is discovered however, it can be repaired with surgery or the placement of a stent.
People who drink and smoke are more at risk of developing an aortic aneurysm than those who do not. An injury or inflammation in the artery and even aging can also cause a person to develop an aneurysm of this type. Some people do experience pain in the chest or back when they have an aortic aneurysm, but not everyone will experience this pain. If you have a family history of relatives who have had an aortic aneurysm you should inform your doctor and be tested for one. There are certain tests that your doctor can do to check for aortic aneurysms. The best way to protect yourself from developing an aortic aneurysm is to stop smoking or drinking, exercise daily and improve your diet. Taking care of yourself is your number one best protection.
Aortic aneurysms that occur in the chest near the heart are called thoracic aortic aneurysms. An abdominal aortic aneurysm can develop any abdominal area below the kidneys. It is not known yet exactly what causes these aneurysms to occur. However, it is known that the artery walls can be weakened by fatty deposits of plaque. It is also believed that aortic aneurysms can be caused by obesity, emphysema, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, genetic factors, and high cholesterol.
There are a few common symptoms of an aortic aneurysm. These include bowel obstructions, hoarseness, rapid heart when rising from a seated position, pain and neck, jaw, and upper back. Some other symptoms include unexplained weight loss, clammy skin, nausea and vomiting, difficulties in swallowing, and difficulty in breathing. The treatment for an aortic aneurysm can vary and depends on the location and the severity of the aneurysm. A stent can be placed in the area of aortic aneurysm which will allow the blood to flow through this stent and eliminate the chance of a rupture in the artery wall. Sometimes the aortic valve can be involved which means the valve needs to be repaired or replaced. If you feel that you may be at risk for an aortic aneurysm you should discuss this with your family doctor.
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