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What is Ectasia?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The term “ectasia” is used to refer to the distension of hollow tissue. Usually, this condition is part of a larger medical condition, and there are a variety of treatments, depending on the location and the underlying cause. In some cases, the only treatment is careful management of the area of dilated tissue, with monitoring to ensure that changes in the patient's health are identified and addressed early.

Vascular ectasia involves the dilation of the blood vessels. People with chronic vascular ectasia often experience low blood pressure and related problems, and sometimes the swelling of the blood vessels weakens their walls, putting the patient at risk for an aneurysm or another major medical problem. Coronary artery ectasia is a condition of special concern for doctors, as these arteries are critical to the circulation.

Another form is mammary duct ectasia, in which the milk ducts become clogged or swollen. This can happen while a mother is nursing or to a woman who is not nursing. Sometimes it indicates the presence of breast cancer or a benign tumor, but other conditions can also lead to distention of the milk ducts. This form is often accompanied with a distinctive discharge and tenderness in the breast area.

Patients who receive LASIK are often warned about corneal ectasia, also known as iatrogenic keratoconus, in which the cornea becomes swollen as a complication of surgery. This condition can appear up to two years after the surgery, and it is treatable with additional surgery to restablize the cornea and reduce the swelling.

Sometimes, this condition can be a valuable symptom which may lead a doctor to a diagnosis. In other instances, it is discovered in the process of a workup for a medical condition or during a routine physical or medical screening. The causes are quite varied, as are the treatment approaches. As a general rule, doctors like to treat the swelling, because prolonged distention can damage the soft tissues of the body and lead to more serious medical problems for the patient.

Changes in the body can occur slowly over time, making it difficult to identify them, and also very rapidly. It is important for doctors and patients to pay attention to seemingly small changes, as these changes can sometimes reveal the presence of a medical condition which needs to be addressed in a timely fashion. The more quickly treatment is offered, the better the prognosis for the patient.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By bagley79 — On Jul 20, 2011

When my sister was experiencing constant lower back pain for several months, she had no idea she was having dural ectasia symptoms. This is something neither of us had ever heard of before.

Her doctor confirmed this with an MRI, and said that the best thing she can do is manage the pain. Sometimes she also has pain in her legs as a result of this.

Many people suffer from lower back pain, and there are many different reasons for their pain, but it has been frustrating for her because there isn't really any type of surgery that is being recommended. Hers is not an extreme case, so she has to learn how to manage her pain on a daily basis.

By golf07 — On Jul 19, 2011

When I had LASIK surgery a few years ago I remember hearing about the possibility of ectasia of the cornea. I had to watch a video and read over some information about the possible side effects from the surgery.

In the video they showed what corneal ectasia from LASIK looks like, and in the pictures it looks like it would be quite painful.

I was fortunate enough not to have any complications, but know you are always taking risk with any kind of surgery.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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