According to doctors at HealthTap, abdominal aortic ectasia occurs when the aorta becomes dilated and swollen in the abdomen. Although the aorta enlarges with age, smoking and inherited conditions can make it worse.
Cleveland Clinic explains that abdominal aortic ectasia occurs when the aorta is dilated between the normal diameter and just less than 1.5 times the normal diameter. Any dilation greater than this and it is considered an aneurysm. The danger in ectasia is that it can worsen into aneurysm.
Cleveland Clinic points out that abdominal aortic aneurysm is the most common type of aneurysm when it comes to arteries. Most of these occur below the kidneys and are exacerbated by smoking. Also, older males are more likely to suffer from this condition. The most telling symptom is radiating abdominal pain, which suggests that the aorta has ruptured. Patients who experience this must immediately go to the hospital and undergo surgery. If the aorta has not ruptured, treatment options for patients include taking beta blockers and quitting smoking. Another option is to put in a stent graft, which bridges the dilated aorta and takes the pressure off of it. When the abdominal aorta dilates past 5 centimeters (its normal size is about 2 centimeters) medical intervention is advised.