About Enlarged Aorta
Aortic aneurysm or enlargement of aorta is an expansion or weakening or a heart vessel. Since aorta is a heart vessel, its unusual expansion or increase in size is known as aortic aneurysm. Blood pressure flowing through the weak heart vessel causes a bulge on the weak vessel. This bulge gradually intensifies as the pressure grows. If not treated, it can cause rupture in the heart vessel which is a life threatening condition. Know the causes of enlarged aorta, its symptoms and treatment.
Bulging can occur in any artery or vessel of the body though it is most common in brain arteries and aorta vessel of heart. Bulges in the artery are classified into three parts as true aneurysm, false and dissected aneurysm. A true aortic aneurysm involves all the three layers of the blood vessel wall whereas the false aneurysm involves only the two outer layer of the blood vessel of heart. However, aortic dissection is a different case altogether. Dissection means separation of vessel walls which ultimately leads to leakage of blood to other vessels. This further damages and weakens the blood vessel increasing the risk of a rupture.
What are the Causes of Enlarged Aorta?
The most common region for enlarged aorta is abdominal aorta which is also known as abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). It is known as thoracic aortic aneurysm if it occurs in the thoracic aorta of the heart. Since abdominal aorta is a very large blood vessel, a ruptured abdominal aneurysm is a dangerous and life threatening event. But fortunately, not all the aortic aneurysms rupture. Many grow slowly and do not rupture for even years. Aneurysms are more common in men than women. Majority of the aneurysm cases are seen in people above the age of 65.
Here are Some of the Common Causes of Enlarged Aorta:
It is condition in which an artery of the heart gets clogged or is damaged due to some reasons. The condition is known as atherosclerosis. It is also known as hardening of the arteries of heart as it calcifies later. In this, a fatty substance known as cholesterol sticks to one of the vessels of wall weakening it. Atherosclerosis is the one of the commonest causes of enlarged aorta, heart attack and various heart diseases.
Uncontrolled diabetes damages the blood vessels causing premature accelerated atherosclerosis. This damages the blood vessels and can cause aneurysm or enlarge aorta.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure exerts immense pressure on the heart vessels which puts stress on the aorta wall. This stress leads to bulging of the blood vessels and is one of the causes of enlarged aorta.
Inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis can produce inflammation of the artery and vasculitis. It can cause enlarged aorta and if not treated can weaken and even rupture the artery.
This happens when bacteria spreads into the arterial system, invade the blood vessels and weakens it. Though it is a rare cause yet it can be one of the reasons behind aortic aneurysm.
What are the Symptoms of Enlarged Aorta?
Aneurysms usually do not lead to any symptoms until they become very large or until they rupture. Enlarged aorta is co-incidentally found when a patient goes for some other medical test. However, chest and back pain are the commonest symptoms of enlarged aorta. Actually chest pain is the first sign of the aortic dissection. People complain of a ripping and tearing apart sensation when the aorta enlarges, ruptures and dissects. Apart from pain, sweating, intense heartbeat, rapid breathing and dizziness are the few symptoms of an enlarged aorta.
Symptoms of enlarged aorta generally depend upon the region of body deprived of blood flow. When aorta of heart widens itself to form a bulge, blood clots or thrombi are most likely to happen. Now if this piece of blood clot breaks away it moves into the blood stream and travels to different parts of the body. The worst part of this is that such a blood clot can get lodged in any blood vessel and disrupt the blood supply in that area.
In serious cases, the fragmented blood clot can cause stroke or even heart attack. It can also cause disruption or total cease of working of lungs, kidney, liver and even brain.
In less severe cases, it may instigate numbing sensation, weakness, coldness in arm and leg, sensation loss, light headed feeling etc.
Summing up the symptoms of enlarged aorta include
- Chest and back pain (most common)
- Shortness of breath
- Intense fast heart beat
- Chilling sensation
- Loss of consciousness
- Light headed feeling
What is the Treatment of Enlarged Aorta?
Treatment of enlarged aorta depends upon the health of the patient and medical history. At first doctor assesses the medical history, health, weight, age and other factors before prescribing medications. The basic goal of treatment is prevention of blood vessel from rupturing. Medical monitoring and surgery (in case of rupture) are two treatments options for enlarged aorta. In initial stages doctors will prescribe medications to reduce cholesterol level in the heart arteries and for lowering the blood pressure.
If the enlarged aorta in the thoracic region is small in size, medications to reduce the pressure in the blood vessel can help. In case of high blood pressure and cholesterol in the artery of heart, the following medications given are generally:
- Beta blockers- they lower the blood pressure by slowing down the heart beat rate
- Angiotensin II receptor blocker- when beta blockers fail to bring down the blood pressure, these receptors blockers help to bring down the high blood pressure
- Statins- these medicines help in lowering the cholesterol in the body and also aid in reducing the blockage in the arteries. Statins actually reduce the risk of enlarged aorta and the complications.
- Mayo Clinic – Aortic Aneurysm: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aortic-aneurysm/symptoms-causes/syc-20369472
- American Heart Association – Aortic Aneurysm: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/aortic-aneurysm
- MedlinePlus – Aortic Aneurysm: https://medlineplus.gov/aorticaneurysm.html