Posts Tagged ‘symptoms’

What is Aortic Dissection?

Aortic Dissection

An aortic dissection is a severe heart and vascular condition where there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, a large blood vessel that branches off the heart. Although aortic dissections are rather uncommon, this is a condition that anyone can develop. It is important to learn how to prevent them and when it is necessary to see a physician. Aortic dissections most commonly occur in men between 60 and 70 years old. Sometimes aortic dissection symptoms, outlined below, can be mistaken for other cardiovascular disease.

Aortic Dissection Symptoms

Symptoms of aortic dissection include:

  • Sudden chest of upper back pain that radiates down the neck or back
  • Fainting
  • Stroke
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakness or paralysis

Aortic Dissection Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors associated with aortic dissection include:

  • An aortic valve defect
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Weakened and bulging arteries
  • Constriction of the aorta

Aortic Dissection Prevention

The best way to prevent an aortic dissection is to follow your physician’s advice and:

  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Do not smoke, or try to quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy cholesterol level
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

When Should I See My Physician?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above contact your physician or emergency medical assistance. You may not have an aortic dissection, but it would best to get it checked out as you may have other heart or vascular disorders.

Aortic Dissection at Emory Heart & Vascular

Emory Heart & Vascular Center cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular surgeons work together to treat patients with aortic dissections. If detected early, a patient’s chance of survival is improved. We believe that if you can maintain a healthy heart if you pay attention to the keys to prevention, understand symptoms and work closely with your physician.

About Ravi Veeraswamy, MD

Dr. Veeraswamy specializes in surgery and vascular surgery, and has been practicing with Emory since 2006. Some of his areas of clinical interest include aortic aneurysm, carotid endarterectomy, peripheral arterial and vascular disease, and vascular surgery. Recently, Dr. Veeraswamy has published articles in the Washington University Manual of Surgery, Vascular and Endovascular Challenges, and the Annals of Vascular Surgery.

Heart Failure – What Should I Know?

Sonjoy Laskar MD

A heart failure diagnosis may sound frightening, but with the right treatment, heart failure can be controlled. Once you are on a stable medical regimen, you can often return to a full and enjoyable life. With the recent passing of actress and icon, Elizabeth Taylor, we would like to take some time to provide some information about congestive heart failure.


  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) affects nearly 5 million Americans
  • Approximately 550,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • Congestive heart failure affects people of all ages, from children and young adults to the middle-aged and the elderly.
  • Almost 1.4 million persons with CHF are under 60 years of age.
  • CHF is present in 2 percent of persons age 40 to 59.
  • More than 5 percent of persons age 60 to 69 have CHF.
  • CHF annual incidence approaches 10 per 1,000 population after 65 years of age.
  • The incidence of CHF is equally frequent in men and women, and African-Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop heart failure than Caucasians.
  • More than half of those who develop CHF die within 5 years of diagnosis.


  • Shortness of breath with little exertion
  • Feeling weak or tired after little activity or exertion
  • Difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems
  • A new or different cough, especially while lying flat
  • A swollen and/or tender abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urination at night
  • Swelling of the feet and legs

Early diagnosis and treatment for heart failure is very important. Heart failure is a chronic condition that may follow a varied and unpredictable course. If you are experiencing heart failure symptoms, you should see your cardiologist. If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, adhering to the treatment plan designed by your doctors and nurses can help you navigate this challenge. Your symptoms can be controlled with proper medical care.

About Sonjoy Laskar, MD:
Dr. Laskar joined Emory Healthcare in 2005 and has devoted his career to providing direct care to patients with heart failure, heart transplantation and ventricular assist devices, as well as to teaching residents and fellows. He is an active researcher in the areas of echocardiography and ventricular assist devices as destination therapy, and is a member of the American College of Cardiology, Heart Failure Society of America and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation

Increase Awareness of Heart Disease in Women – Wear Red February 4th

Heart Disease AwarenessFebruary is American Heart Month. Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by heart disease, as heart disease is the number one killer in America. Help increase awareness of heart disease by wearing red on Friday, February 4! Women from all over the country are banding together and pledging to wear red on this special day. Be one of them!

Symptoms of heart disease in women are very different than in men. Women are not as likely to recognize the symptoms and seek immediate treatment. Women can learn to recognize symptoms of heart attacks so they are empowered and can potentially save their own life or save the life of someone else. Some of the most common symptoms of heart attacks in women are:

• Burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen
• Cold sweat
• Dizziness
• Discomfort such as pressure, aches and/or tightness that can come and go
• Irregular heartbeat
• Nausea
• Pain or pressure in the back or high chest
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness
• Extreme fatigue

Experts agree that women should become more assertive in their heart care. Attend one of Emory’s seminars during heart month to learn how to live heart smart.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts regarding any of the content listed above or the seminar series!

Are You at Risk for an Aortic Aneurysm?

Emory Heart & Vascular

An Aortic aneurysm is a serious vascular condition and a leading cause of sudden death in men over 60. Therefore, it is important that we discuss what aortic aneurysms are, possible symptoms and how to treat them.

What are aortic aneurysms?

Aneurysms are abnormal bulges (ballooning) in the wall of an artery. Many aneurysms occur in the aorta (the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body). Since the section with the aneurysm is overstretched, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it usually causes serious bleeding. If not treated very quickly a burst aorta can quickly lead to death.

There are two main types of aortic aneurysms:

  1. Thoracic aortic aneurysms – these aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest.
  2. Abdominal aortic aneurysms – these aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the abdomen.

What are causes/symptoms of aortic aneurysm?

Some medical problems like high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries weaken the artery walls and can result in a weak aortic wall that will bulge.
Unfortunately aortic aneurysms do not usually cause symptoms so we recommend screening tests for aneurysms for men who are in the following categories:

  • 65 to 75 and have smoked in his lifetime or
  • 60 years old and have a first-degree relative (father or brother) who has had an aneurysm.

Some people say they have belly, chest, or back discomfort that may come and go or stay constant. If not diagnosed and treated the aortic aneurysm can lead to other problems such as blood clots that lead to stroke or blood clots that form an aortic aneurysm in the belly or legs.

If you are an older male with high blood pressure, a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms in first degree relatives that you are at risk for an aortic aneurysm and have been a smoker or alcohol drinker you could be at risk.

If you think you have an aneurysm, we recommend you call your physician and schedule a screening test. Your physician will likely perform an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI to find out where it is and how big it is.

About Karthik Kasirajan, MD:
Dr. Kasirajan specializes in surgery and vascular surgery, and has been practicing at Emory since 2003. Several of his areas of interest include peripheral arterial disease, endovascular surgery, abdominal and aortic aneurysm, vascular surgery, thrombotic disease, and stroke. Dr. Kasirajan holds many organizational leadership memberships, including the European Society for Vascular Surgery, International College of Surgeons, and the Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society, and is widely published in publications such as the Journal of Endovascular Therapy and the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

Peripheral Artery Disease: Donna Seaman’s Story

My name is Donna Seaman, and I’d like to share my story of Peripheral Artery Disease with you.

First—a little background for you: I’m from Massachusetts, and I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 35 years now. I attended Emory University and majored in business before becoming a buyer for Rich’s (now Macy’s). I enjoyed the best of both worlds in that I spent several years as both a working Mom, and several as a stay-at-home Mom. I live in Dunwoody, and I have two children—a 26-year-old daughter, and a 23-year-old son.

I’ve been playing tennis now for over 20 years, and once I hit my late 40s I began to notice some leg pain and swelling. At the time, I attributed it to normal wear and tear, and assumed it was also due to all of the years I spent on my feet working in the retail industry. When the pain worsened after about a year or so, I knew it was time to seek medical help.

When Dr. Niazi asked me if I was experiencing any other symptoms, I shared the fact that my tennis game had been really “off”, and that I had noticed that I was stumbling around more and feeling clumsier in general. I would also pick up items and unintentionally drop them. I didn’t think much of these particular symptoms, but the folks at Emory really took notice when they heard me mention them, and decided to run some more tests.

After the tests, Emory called me with the results and informed me that not only did I have peripheral artery disease in my legs, the carotid artery in my neck was 97% blocked. (My neck artery blockage was what was causing the stumbling and clumsiness.) Dr. Niazi immediately warned me not to have any neck rubs or massages, and to exercise caution when I was getting my hair washed at the salon or bending my neck. With 97% of the artery blocked, I was dangerously close to experiencing a stroke.

Initially, I had less invasive procedure that involved the physician going through my groin area and then up into my neck in order to place a stent. However, after reviewing the results of the procedure, Dr. Niazi realized that my condition was worse than he anticipated. He recommended that I undergo total carotid artery surgery, which was necessary given my younger age and the severity of the blockage.

A week later (in October of 2009), I was back at Emory for the carotid artery surgery that would clean out the build-up of plaque.  I was in the hospital for three days for the procedure. I left Emory with a scar on my neck and the knowledge that I’d come dangerously close to having a potentially fatal stroke. In my mind, it’s a sort of miracle that my condition was discovered the way it was—if it weren’t for Dr. Niazi’s proactive treatment of my PAD, I’m not sure I’d be here to tell you my story today.

About a month later, I was treated for the PAD that was present in my legs. This was a much simpler procedure—and was practically right in and out of the hospital for it.

Since the surgery, I started taking medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure, and I have yearly checkups to the doctor. I no longer feel any pain in my legs when I exercise. My walking is better, and my balance has improved greatly.

I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Niazi and the team at Emory who treated me. They’re personable, professional, and top-notch, and they took a personal interest in me and carefully listened to me speak about my concerns and symptoms. I feel very fortunate that I was in such good hands and that I escaped the life-threatening repercussions of PAD.

What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease?

As we pointed out in our previous Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) post, nearly half of people with this condition are unaware of their diagnosis because they experience no symptoms or are unaware that their complaints are due to PAD.  PAD can develop slowly over one’s lifetime so that symptoms may not present until arteries are severely blocked.

One of the major symptoms associated with this disease is referred to as claudication, which involves pain or cramping in the arms or legs during exercise or merely walking.  Every patient is different and some may experience it as heaviness, burning, or numbness.  The pain typically diminishes with rest, and may be severe, depending on the blockage of the artery.  When involving the legs, this symptom occurs most commonly in the calf muscle, but can often involve the buttocks or thighs.  Claudication may occur in one or both legs.  Discomfort is often worse when walking up stairs or uphill.

In severe cases, PAD can also cause symptoms that involve intense pain at rest. This is due to insufficient amounts of blood or oxygen reaching the legs even in the resting state.  Patients may find that they have severe pain at night relieved by hanging the foot down from the bed.

Other symptoms of PAD include:

–       Numbness of the limbs/extremities

–       Sensation of coldness in the legs or feet

–       Ulcers in the toes

–       Redness or discoloration of the skin

–       Foot and toe sore that will not heal

–       Loss of hair on the legs and changes in nail growth

Our next post will discuss which patients and/or candidates should be treated for PAD. If you have questions on the symptoms of PAD, or about this condition in general, please be sure to let me know in the comments.

About Chandan Devireddy, MD:

Dr. Devireddy specializes in Interventional Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine, and has been practicing with Emory since 2005. He actively participates in the Interventional Cardiology research department, which has been a significant enroller in several multi-center clinical trials. His individual research interests include acute coronary syndromes, novel coronary and peripheral technology, and medical and interventional treatment of peripheral vascular diseases.

Understanding Heart Failure

Heart failure, put simply, is a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should. Nearly 5 million Americans currently suffer from it, and approximately 550,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. So, why does it occur? Unfortunately there’s no straightforward answer to this question—heart failure can stem from a number of factors, including diabetes, obesity, lung disease, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, congenital heart disease, irregular heartbeats, long standing high blood pressure and more.

A normal, healthy heart pumps plenty of oxygen-rich blood out of the heart and into the system, nourishing the entire body. Signs of heart failure enter the equation when the heart doesn’t eject blood efficiently enough to meet these oxygen demands. The condition can occur suddenly, or it may advance slowly over time.

In order to understand heart failure, we must first examine the two main types: systolic and diastolic. With every heartbeat, the heart contracts and relaxes. Systolic heart failure (the most common type) occurs when the heart doesn’t contract properly due to weakness in the heart muscle, which causes the ventricles to stretch. In the case of diastolic heart failure the heart contracts well, but is unable to relax properly, causing the muscles to thicken and harden.

Both types of heart failure render the heart unable to properly fill with blood, which can cause the blood to accumulate into the lungs, hands, abdomen, legs and feet. This “backing up” of fluid is often referred to as “congestion”, or congestive heart failure.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

–       shortness of breath with little exertion

–       weakness or fatigue with little exertion

–       difficulty sleeping

–       unfamiliar coughing

–       swollen/tender abdomen

–       loss of appetite

–       increased urination at night

–       swelling of feet and legs

The importance of early diagnosis and treatment of this condition can’t be overstated. Further, it’s critical to identify the underlying cause of heart failure in order to determine the best course of treatment, which can range from medications, to device implants to surgeries, depending on the severity of the condition.

We strongly encourage patients to take an active role in controlling their symptoms by taking their medication regularly, monitoring their weight, heart rate and blood pressure, following diet and exercise recommendations and managing stress.

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition; however, patients who proactively monitor their key symptoms and adhere to their treatment plans can drastically improve their outlook for the future.

Have you or someone you love been affected by heart failure? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts or questions with me in the comments.