The abdominal aortic aneurysm is the dilatation and localized bulging of the abdominal part of the aorta owing to weakness of its wall.
The aorta is the main artery of the body that arises from the heart, passes down through the chest into the abdomen and supplies blood to the entire body through its branches. An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the weakened area of the aortic wall in its abdominal part enlarges. It usually doesn’t cause any symptoms except back or abdominal pain, but can be life threatening if it ruptures.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is the 10th most common cause of death in males older than 55 years in the United States. About 85% of abdominal aortic aneurysms are located below the origin of the renal arteries, the arteries that supply blood to the kidney.
Smoking is one of the most common and preventable risk factors of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Males between the ages of 65 and 75 years with a smoking history should undergo an ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm as a preventive measure.
What are the Causes of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms?
The exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysm is not known. Certain predisposing factors increase an individual’s risk of developing the condition, which include the following:
Tobacco Smoking – Smoking weakens the heart and aortic walls and also leads to atherosclerosis, which can result in abdominal aortic aneurysm
High blood pressure – High blood pressure increases the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm since it exerts pressure on the aortic walls and weakens them over a period of time
Blood vessel diseases – Blood vessel diseases like Takayasu disease and giant cell arteritis cause inflammation and gradual weakening of aortic wall. Arteriosclerosis is a condition where the walls of the arteries harden and weaken, thereby predisposing to the formation of an aneurysm. Some bacterial and fungal infections of the aorta can also result in aneurysm
Heredity – Abdominal aortic aneurysm runs in families
Trauma to the abdomen
Type 2 diabetes
High blood cholesterol levels – The cholesterol can get deposited in the wall of the aorta, predisposing to aneurysm formation
Age – Abdominal aortic aneurysms usually develop in people above 60 years of age
Gender – Abdominal aortic aneurysm is more common in males as compared to females.
Genetic conditions, namely Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which results in weakening of the aortic wall
Abdominal aortic aneurysms can be prevented to some extent by controlling smoking, and keeping a check on weight and blood pressure.