You may not read a lot about aortic aneurysms in the news, but they’re actually responsible for a surprising number of deaths in the U.S. – about 10,000 every year, according to the CDC. Aortic aneurysms form when a section of the aorta – the main artery that transports blood away from the heart – becomes weak and balloons out. Without prompt medical care, an aneurysm can split or burst, resulting in shock and even death. But because aneurysms cause so few symptoms (if any) until a serious event occurs, they can be very easy to overlook – and that means life-saving medical care and treatment can be delayed. Knowing the symptoms of aortic aneurysms as well as your risk factors is important for preventing potentially fatal complications.
2 Types: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm and Thoracic Aneurysm
There are two primary types of aortic aneurysms, named for the section of the aorta they affect:
- Thoracic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that’s in your chest, and they’re relatively uncommon.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) occur in the part of your aorta that runs through your abdominal area, and they’re more common – and responsible for far more deaths. Abdominal aortic aneurysms develop in about 4 percent to 8 percent of the population.
Both types of aneurysms can be difficult to detect, and often, they’re diagnosed only when a patient is being screened for another condition and the aneurysm is spotted on an X-ray or other diagnostic images.
Risk Factors for AAA
Although both men and women are equally likely to develop a thoracic aneurysm, AAA occurs primarily in men and in people 65 years of age and older. Other risk factors for AAA include:
- smoking or other tobacco use
- blood vessel disease or aortic infections
- heart disease
- atherosclerosis (“hardening” of the arteries)
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- traumatic injury to the abdominal area
Some people may be more likely to develop an AAA if they have a close family member who had one.
AAA Symptoms to Look For
Not surprisingly, abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms occur in and around the abdomen. The most common symptoms include:
- pulsating sensations near the belly button
- sudden sharp pain deep in your belly, in the side of your belly or in your back
- pain in your groin or buttocks
Often, though, AAA causes no symptoms, which can make it very difficult to detect.
Get screened for AAA.
Because AAA is difficult to detect on your own or even with a physical exam, it’s important to consider AAA screening, especially if you have risk factors for AAA. As a top vein clinic in Nashville, TN, Siragusa Vein & Laser performs AAA screening exams using the most advanced technology to diagnose aneurysms safely and effectively, so treatment can be provided as early as possible. If you’re at risk for an AAA, call Siragusa Vein & Laser at 615-777-0744 and schedule a screening with Dr. Siragusa today.