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Enlarged Aorta - Symptoms, Treatment, Surgery, Pictures

Updated on January 9, 2014

Pictures

What is Enlarged Aorta?

Your aorta is the largest artery in your body and is responsible for delivering blood that is rich in oxygen from your heart’s left ventricle to your abdomen. The ventricle is a chamber of your heart that helps to pump blood out of your heart into your body. Your left ventricle is the larger of the ventricles because its function to pump blood throughout your body. When a person has an enlarged aorta it is defined by where it is located on the blood vessel along with the shape it will take and the size of the bubble. Having an enlarged aorta is considered a very serious cardiac medical condition.

An enlarged aorta can happen to anyone but there are some people who are more at risk and these at-risk people include:

  • People who are suffering from tissue connectivity disorders
  • People who are having trouble with their bicuspid valve which is one of four valves in your heart and is located between your left ventricle and left atrium. This valve permits your blood to flow one way and that is going from your left atrium to your left ventricle.
  • People who have atherosclerosis, which is a medical condition in which the wall of an artery thickens because of the accumulation of fatty things like cholesterol.
  • People who have Marfan syndrome, which is a genetic disorder of your connective tissue.
  • People who have Ehlers-Danios syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder that is inherited.
  • People who use tobacco products
  • People who have high blood pressure
  • People who are fifty-five and older and are male.

Symptoms

When a person has symptoms of an enlarged aorta the most prevalent symptoms will be having a strong feeling of pain or pressure in their back and chest. Other symptoms a person might have include:

  • Pain in the abdomen - this pain is usually felt as the enlargement happened
  • Pain in the back - this is felt upon the enlargement of the aorta
  • Numbness - you can suffer from this when the compression of the roots have already happened.
  • Pain in the chest - this is due to the pain from the bulging of the enlarged aorta
  • Pain in the leg - this due to the lack of oxygen to the lower part of your body

Other symptoms that may be associated with an enlarged aorta may include:

  • Feeling nauseated or vomiting if they have an abdominal aortic enlargement and having a feeling of fullness
  • A rapid heart beat that is more than usual because of the compression of the blood vessels that are affected.
  • Shortness of breath because of the compressed blood not flowing regularly
  • Skin that feels cold and clammy because of the uneven flow of blood all over the body.
  • Fatigue - this is because of the decreased flow of blood that reduces the body’s functioning.
  • Fever

Causes

The most common cause of having an enlarged aorta is disease. There can also be small tears in the aorta called dissections that can be caused by a variety of cardiovascular conditions. Other causes of an enlarged aorta may include:

  • Having high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Injury in which there was sudden force applied and damaged arteries in certain body parts like your abdomen and chest
  • Infections such as endocarditis and syphilis that mainly affects your heart
  • Infection which can lead to the aortic wall becoming weakened
  • Having a family history of enlarged aortas
  • Smoking

Treatment

The treatment that will be used depends on what causes your enlarged aorta. If you have any of the symptoms you need to see your physician to find out the cause. If the symptoms are severe, especially the pain the chest and back which could signal am impending heart attack, you should go to your local emergency room because it could be life threatening.

Some of the treatments that may be used include:

Medications

If the enlargement in your aorta is smaller than five inches in diameter your physician may put you on beta-blockers to help treat your high blood pressure. Controlling your blood pressure can help to prevent it from rupturing. For approximately six months your physician will watch to make sure that it does not get any bigger. They will do a variety of testing and imaging in order to monitor it.

Surgery

If the enlarged aorta has reached more than five inches in diameter they surgery is the best option to choose because if you do not have surgery it will only progressively get worse and could be life threatening

Changes in your lifestyle

This means that if you smoke or use any tobacco products you need to stop. You also need to make sure that you are eating a healthy heart diet, limit your alcohol use or do not drink at all, and exercise at least thirty minutes a day to help improve the circulation of your blood. If you are overweight you should work to lose weight.

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