An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs when the aorta, a main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body, becomes severely weakened. This can lead to a bulge or swelling of the vessel which can get worse over time, gradually or quickly. In the worst-case scenario, an abdominal aneurysm can also rupture, causing life-threatening internal bleeding – and if that happens, your chances of survival are slim. However, if caught early, there are several response options that could save your life. Read on to learn about the main symptoms of AAA that could help you spot a problem earlier, including one you might feel near your belly button.
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Abdominal aortic aneurysms are hard to detect, says Ali Azizzadeh, MD, FACS, director of the division of vascular surgery at Cedars-Sinai. “Most aortic aneurysms are asymptomatic, leaving patients oblivious to their disease. That’s why they’re sometimes referred to as a ‘ticking time bomb’ or ‘silent killer,’” Azizzadeh said. Better life. “Many are detected when patients undergo imaging for other problems. For example, a CT scan performed in the emergency room after a car accident reveals a previously undetected abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).”
Still, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are a few key signs of AAA that are most likely to alert you to the condition. Individually, they could all be attributed to other conditions or considered completely normal. However, when experienced together, they may suggest a growing aneurysm, which may require immediate care or even emergency surgery.
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Feeling a strong pulse to the left of your belly button may be completely normal, since the aorta runs along your chest, carrying blood from the heart to the rest of your body. According to Penn Medicine, you’re more likely to notice a strong pulse in this area during or after a meal, while lying down, or while pregnant.
However, if you notice a strong pulse alongside another key symptom, you may have reason to suspect an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Read on to find out which corroborating symptom may suggest a more serious problem.
The Mayo Clinic warns that having “deep, constant pain” in the front or side of the abdomen is another symptom of AAA, as is back pain. “Pain is the most common symptom of an abdominal aortic aneurysm,” say experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, noting that the sensation can extend to the chest or groin. “Pain may be sharp or dull. Sudden severe pain in the back or abdomen may mean the aneurysm is about to rupture,” they write. “This is a life-threatening medical emergency.”
Azizzadeh notes that even if there are no symptoms, people at high risk for AAA should ask their doctor for screening. “Patients who have risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of [tobacco use], or loved ones with aneurysms should consult their doctor about possible screening. The Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Very Efficiently Act (SAAAVE), which was enacted by Congress in 2007, covers screening as part of the Welcome to Medicare physical exam for certain high-risk patients,” he adds. .
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Experts say that if an abdominal aneurysm is discovered at an early stage, your doctor’s main goal will be to prevent dissection or rupture of the aorta. Most likely, this would involve surgery that replaces the weakened or bulging part of the blood vessel with a synthetic tube.
Being proactive about screening and preventive care, especially if you’re at high risk, could have a dramatic and life-saving effect. “A ruptured aneurysm can cause massive internal bleeding, which is usually fatal,” says the UK’s National Health Services. “About eight in 10 people with a rupture die before they get to hospital or don’t survive surgery.”
Signs that an aortic aneurysm has in fact ruptured may include sudden, severe pain that feels like a “tear” in your abdomen or back, a drop in blood pressure, or a rapid pulse. If you think you have a ruptured aneurysm, call 911 immediately.
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