If you think you may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or are worried about your aneurysm risk because of a strong family history, make an appointment with your family doctor. If an aneurysm is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective.
Since many abdominal aortic aneurysms are found during a routine physical exam, or while your doctor is looking for another condition, there are no special preparations necessary. If you're being screened for an aortic aneurysm, your doctor will likely ask if anyone in your family has ever had an aortic aneurysm, so have that information ready.
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot to discuss, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. For an ultrasound or echocardiogram, for example, you may need to fast for a period of time beforehand.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of heart disease or aneurysms.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Be prepared to discuss your diet, exercise habits and tobacco use. If you don't already follow a healthy diet or exercise routine, talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started. Be sure to tell your doctor if you're a current or former smoker.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For an abdominal aortic aneurysm, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What treatments are available, and which do you think would be the best treatment for me?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- How often do I need to be screened for this aneurysm?
- Should I tell other family members to be screened for an aneurysm?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
- What websites do you recommend visiting for more information?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first notice your symptoms?
- Do your symptoms come and go, or do you always feel them?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you have a family history of aneurysms?
- Have you ever smoked?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
What you can do in the meantime
It's never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defense to keep your blood vessels healthy and prevent an abdominal aortic aneurysm from developing or worsening.
If you're diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you should ask about the size of your aneurysm, whether your doctor has noticed any changes and how frequently you should visit your doctor for follow-up appointments.