Aortic arch disease blocks the blood vessels that branch off the aorta over time, and this situation results in decreased blood flow to other areas of the body, including vital organs. The most common form of aortic arch disease is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Over time, the disease can cause aneurysms (enlarged arteries), heart attack, organ damage and/or strokes.
There are two phases of aortic arch disease: systemic (when the blood vessels become inflamed) and occlusive (the blood vessels become narrowed). Symptoms differ for each phase, and only about half of all patients experience any of these. The occlusive symptoms can cause serious conditions in the body if not monitored and treated.
Systemic Phase Symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Night sweats
- Poor appetite
- Swollen glands
- Tenderness above the affected arteries
- Weight loss
Occlusive Phase Symptoms:
- Cold or white hands or feet
- Difference in blood pressure between the arms and the legs
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Vision problems
- Weak or absent pulse
Though it remains unclear what actually causes aortic arch disease, those who are female and of Asian descent are at much higher risk than other populations.
Treating Aortic Arch Disease
Physicians have certain medications at their disposal to help treat this disease, but equally important are instructions for lifestyle modifications. These life changes can include smoking cessation, lowering one’s cholesterol and saturated fat intake, and a regular diet and exercise regimen to lose weight.
Surgical treatments for advanced conditions include endarterectomy (removing damaged tissues and/or plaque from inside the arteries), or angioplasty/stenting procedures.