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.