What You Should Know About an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

As a major vessel that runs from your heart, through your chest, and down to your abdomen, an issue with your aorta can be problematic and sometimes fatal. One such issue is an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA, and with proactive measures you can avoid it entirely. 

Here’s what you should know about AAA. 

What is AAA?

Simply put, an abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the aorta, but more specifically focused in the lower region towards your abdomen. If this area were to burst it could cause serious, life threatening bleeding, or death. 

Who’s at Risk for AAA?

Although there is not one precise reason that anyone may develop AAA, there are a number of risk factors that may make you more susceptible such as: 

  • Smoking
  • Age (people over 50 are more likely to have AAA)
  • Family History of AAA
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol

If any of these describe you, it’s important to have an open discussion with your doctor. Blood pressure and cholesterol can be helped with maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan, and smoking should be stopped immediately to avoid further complications. 

Abdominal aortic aneurysm vs normal aorta

What Are the Symptoms of AAA?

Abdominal aortic aneurysms can grow slowly and show no symptoms, so they are very difficult to detect on your own. However, if you are experiencing any of the following, see your doctor immediately: 

  • A consistent throbbing in your stomach or near your navel. 
  • Constant pain in your abdomen. 
  • Back pain, especially in the lower region. 
  • Tenderness in your chest. 

Because AAAs do not often present themselves, and many will not even reach the point of bursting, most are found during routine medical exams. 

How Are They Caused?

AAAs do not have a specific cause, but many believe it is due to a weakness in the wall of the aorta or an inflammation due to clogged arteries. However, there are arguments for injury and heredity as well. 

It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above you should seek medical care as soon as possible. 

How Is AAA Diagnosed and Treated?

Because they often do not show symptoms, AAAs are typically found during an exam for another reason, or during routine exams. If an AAA is suspected, your doctor will do exams such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to make the final diagnosis. 

If you are diagnosed with an AAA, your doctor may do one of two things: monitoring or surgery. If the aneurysm is small, your doctor may recommend that you adjust your diet as needed, continue to exercise, and attend regular imaging tests to check the size. If the aneurysm is larger, your doctor may recommend surgery in the form of an open abdominal surgery or endovascular repair via your leg. 

For more information about AAA, or to make an appointment with The Bethencourt Group today, contact (657) 241-9440 today.