Your aorta is your longest artery that transports oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Your aorta runs from your heart’s left chamber down through your abdomen, where it branches off. If the walls of your aorta become weakened or damaged, they can balloon out. This bulge in your aorta is called an aortic aneurysm. Aortic aneurysms can be called different names, depending on where the bulge is located. If the bulge is in your chest, it’s called a thoracic aortic aneurysm, but if it’s in your abdomen, it’s called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In either case, if the aneurysm bursts, it is a life-threatening emergency.
The key to treating an aortic aneurysm is knowing about it before it bursts. Ultrasound imaging, which is available here at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center, can detect the presence of aortic aneurysms. But how do you even know that it’s time for an ultrasound? Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand shares the top signs that you may have an aortic aneurysm.
Signs you might have an aortic aneurysm
Because they can develop slowly without any warning signs, you might not realize you have one. However, as the aneurysm grows, you may start to spot some of these warning signs:
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
- Hoarse voice
- Chest pain and/or tenderness
Unfortunately, all of these symptoms can be caused by a multitude of conditions. For example, back pain can be related to kidney stones or pulled muscles, while coughing could be related to a viral or bacterial infection. That being said, if you are in a high-risk category for developing an aneurysm, it’s even more vital to monitor for any of the above-listed symptoms.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing an aortic aneurysm. Other risk factors for aortic aneurysms include:
- Being older than 65
- Having a family history of aneurysms
- Having hardened arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Heart abnormalities such as bicuspid aortic valve
If you have any of the above risk factors and start to spot the common symptoms of an aneurysm, don’t brush them off. Treating aortic aneurysms before they burst can help save your life.
Warning signs of a ruptured aortic aneurysm
Left untreated, the continued force of your blood pressure against the wall of your aorta can cause the aneurysm to dissect or rupture. Both dissections and ruptures are life-threatening medical emergencies because your aorta can bleed quickly into your chest or abdominal cavity.
Signs of a burst aortic aneurysm include:
- Sudden and severe drop in blood pressure
- Passing out from loss of blood and/or drop in blood pressure
- Severe chest or back pain (depending on where the aneurysm was located)
- Trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
If you notice these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Don’t attempt to drive yourself or a loved one to the hospital. Wait for emergency assistance.
Can you prevent aortic aneurysms?
You can reduce your risk of developing an aneurysm by managing cardiac conditions, such as high blood pressure, practicing heart-healthy habits, and avoiding or stopping smoking. Some risk factors, such as family history and age, are unavoidable, so it’s possible to develop an aneurysm even if you do your best to avoid it.
If you do develop an aneurysm, it’s important to monitor the condition to prevent a rupture. Our experienced team uses the latest ultrasound technology to diagnose aortic aneurysms and monitor their growth. Monitoring the growth and behavior of an aneurysm can help shape your treatment plan, whether that includes medication or surgical procedures.
If you need to schedule your ultrasound, call our Houston, Texas, office at 7713-781-6200 or use our online portal to schedule an appointment.