An aneurysm occurs when an artery’s wall weakens and causes an
abnormally large bulge. This bulge can rupture and cause internal bleeding.
Although an aneurysm can occur in any part of your body, they’re most common in
What Causes an Aneurysm?
Although the exact cause of an aneurysm is unclear, certain
factors contribute to the condition. For example, damaged tissue in the
arteries can play a role. The arteries can be harmed by blockages, such as
fatty deposits. These deposits can trigger the heart to pump harder than
necessary to push blood past the fatty buildup. This stress can damage the
arteries because of the increased pressure.
disease can also lead to an aneurysm. People with atherosclerotic disease have
a form of plaque buildup in their arteries. This buildup is due to a hard
substance called plaque that damages the arteries and prevents blood from
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure may also cause an aneurysm. The force of your
blood as it travels through your blood vessels is measured by how much pressure
it places on your artery walls. If the pressure increases above a normal rate,
it may enlarge or weaken the blood vessels.
Blood pressure for an adult is considered normal at or below
120/80 mm Hg, or millimeters of mercury. A significantly higher blood pressure can
increase the risk for heart, blood vessel, and circulation problems. Higher than
normal blood pressure doesn’t necessarily put you at risk for an aneurysm.
Are There Different Types of Aneurysms?
An aneurysm may occur anywhere in your body, but the most common
locations of aneurysms are:
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It begins at
the left ventricle of the heart and travels down the abdomen where it splits
off into both legs. The aorta is a common site for arterial aneurysms.
- Aneurysms in the chest cavity are called
thoracic aortic aneurysms.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the most common
type. In rare cases, both the chest and abdomen can be affected by arterial
Aneurysms in the brain can be any size. These often form in the
blood vessels that lie deep within the brain. They also may not present any
symptoms or signs. You may not even know you have an aneurysm. Aneurysms of
this type may cause bleeding in as many as 3
percent of people.
You can also have an aneurysm in the artery behind your knee, in
your spleen, or in your intestines.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Symptoms of an aneurysm vary with each type and location. It’s
important to know that aneurysms that occur in the body or brain generally don’t
present signs or symptoms until they rupture.
Aneurysms that occur near the surface of the body may show signs
of swelling and pain. A large mass may also develop. The symptoms of ruptured
aneurysms anywhere in the body can include:
- increased heart rate
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Serious complications from aneurysms can cause death if you don’t
get emergency care.
Who Is at Risk for an Aneurysm?
The type of aneurysm that can affect you depends on specific risk
factors. Males are more likely to have aneurysms than females. People older
than 60 are also at a higher risk. Other factors may include:
- a diet high in fats and cholesterol
- a family history of heart conditions, including
heart disease and heart attack
- pregnancy, which may make increase your risk of
having an aneurysm of the spleen
How Is an Aneurysm Diagnosed?
The diagnostic tools used to find arterial damage often depend on
the location of the problem. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist like a
cardiothoracic or vascular surgeon.
scans and ultrasound methods are common tools used to diagnose or find
blood vessel irregularities. CT scans use X-rays to examine the inside of your
body. This allows your doctor to see the condition of the blood vessels, as
well as any blockages, bulges, and weak spots that may be inside the blood
What Are the Treatments for an Aneurysm?
Treatment typically depends on the location and type of aneurysm.
For example, a weak area of a vessel in your chest and abdomen may require a
type of surgery called an endovascular
stent graft. This minimally invasive procedure may be chosen over
traditional open surgery because it involves repairing and reinforcing damaged
blood vessels. The procedure also reduces the chance of infection, scarring,
and other problems.
Other treatments can include medications that treat high blood
pressure and high cholesterol. Certain types of beta-blockers may also be
prescribed to lower blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure may keep your aneurysm
Is There Any Way to Prevent an Aneurysm?
Eating a healthy diet containing plenty of fruits, whole grains,
and vegetables may help prevent an aneurysm from forming. Meat and poultry low
in saturated fat and cholesterol are also good options for protein. Low-fat
dairy products are also beneficial.
Regular exercise, especially cardio, can encourage healthy blood
circulation and blood flow through the heart, arteries, and other blood
If you smoke tobacco products, now is the time to quit.
Eliminating tobacco can decrease your risk for an aneurysm.
You should also see your doctor for annual checkups.