Aorta is one of the major arteries that leave the heart to supply blood to different parts of the body. The part of the aorta that lies in the abdomen (i.e. from below the diaphragm) is referred to as abdominal aorta. Aneurysm refers to localized widening of a blood vessel, which may be associated with damage to the vessels wall.
There are certain risk factors that have been identified to be associated with the development of aortic aneurysm. Some of these risk factors include,
- Cigarette smoking is considered to be the most significant risk factor. Smoking not only increases the chances of aneurysms, but also increases the chances of rupture of the artery, resulting in a life threatening situation.
- Hypertension or elevated blood pressure is considered to be a critical risk factor.
- Elevated levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides can result in development of atherosclerosis and cause the walls of the arteries to harden. This in turn can result in aortic aneurysm.
- Chronic conditions like diabetes mellitus, can be linked with high levels of blood sugar, which also contribute to atherosclerosis and hence aneurysms.
In about 80% of cases of aortic aneurysms, atherosclerosis is considered to be the risk factor. The arterial wall comprises of three layers namely tunica adventitia, tunica media and tunica intima. Atherosclerosis or formation of plaques results in damage to tunica intima layer, exposing tunica media and tunica adventitia to high pressure within the aorta. Chronic exposure to high pressure can further cause damage to the external layers of the arterial wall and result in aneurysm.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms
In most cases, abdominal aortic aneurysm is not associated with any symptoms and is usually incidental findings that are recorded on a CT scan or an Ultrasound scan. However in some cases, following symptoms may be present,
- Pain is usually a common symptom that is observed when the aneurysm expands. The pain is located in the central abdomen and then radiates either backwards towards the flank.
- Depending upon the location of the aneurysm and the surrounding structures involved/ compressed, the symptoms may range from constipation to renal dysfunction.
The condition may produce minor symptoms for several years; however a sudden rupture may be associated with severe pain, shock (due to significant blood loss), abdominal distension and palpitations. This condition is lethal and requires immediate hospitalization.
Treatment Options For Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
The treatment options can be categorized into medical (non-invasive) and surgical (invasive). The focus of medical treatment is aimed at improving the quality of life and minimize the risk factors associated with sudden rupture. Surgical treatment may be inevitable in cases of rupture and significant blood loss. In addition to contemporary medicine there are certain home remedies and natural treatment options that can help improve the symptoms,
- Cinnamon is considered useful in regulating blood sugar levels and also controlling cholesterol levels in the blood. As per reports, consumption of three grams of the spice is very useful in regulating blood sugar.
- A healthy salt restricted diet can help reduce blood pressure. Some reports have suggested that intake of calcium supplements or calcium rich foods like green leafy vegetables can help lower blood pressure.
- Regular exercise can help keep hypertension, blood sugar and cholesterol in check and prevent the aggravation of the condition.