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Aneurysm: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Aneurysm: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

14 June, 2022

Aneurysm is a fairly common medical condition that occurs when an artery wall weakens and leads to a bulge. The bulge can cause damage to the artery and lead to internal bleeding, which can prove to be fatal in certain circumstances. It can be caused by hereditary or acquired diseases.

Aneurysm can develop anywhere in the body, but are most commonly found in the brain, legs, aorta (vessel of heart) and spleen. As the aneurysm grows in size, the risk of ruptureincreaseswhich causes uncontrolled bleeding.

Types of Aneurysm

Aneurysms are classified by their location in the body or by their shape. Some of the most common aneurysm sites seen in the body are-

Aortic aneurysm-These aneurysms are found in the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to other major organs in the body. The diameter of the aorta is 2-3 cm and the aortic aneurysm can bulge up to 5 cm or more. Within the aorta, aneurysms are usually seen in several areas, including-

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)-This aneurysm occurs in the area of ​​the aorta that runs through the abdomen or stomach region. This is the most common aortic aneurysm.

  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)-This aneurysm occurs in the area of ​​the aorta that runs through the chest.

  • Cerebral or brain aneurysm-This aneurysm occurs in the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.

Peripheral aneurysm- This occurs in blood vessels that supply blood to other parts of the body such as legs, groin or neck. Types of peripheral aneurysm include-

  • Carotid artery aneurysm-This aneurysm occurs in an artery placed in the neck called the carotid artery.

  • Femoral artery aneurysm-This occurs in an artery of groin or thigh region called the femoral artery.

  • Mesenteric artery aneurysm-This aneurysm occurs in the artery that carries blood to the intestines.

  • Popliteal aneurysm-This is the most common peripheral aneurysm that occurs behind the knee.

  • Splenic artery aneurysm-This aneurysm occurs in an artery called the splenic artery, which supplies blood to the spleen.

  • Visceral aneurysm-This occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the bowel or kidneys.

Aneurysms are also classified according to the shape of the bulge-

Fusiform aneurysm-The bulge in this type of aneurysm forms on all sides of the blood vessel.

Sacral aneurysm-The bulge in this type of aneurysm only forms on one side of the blood vessel.

Berry aneurysm-The bulge in this type of aneurysm looks like a berry on a narrow stalk. This is the most common type of cerebral aneurysm.

Pseudoaneurysm or false aneurysm-Sometimes a rupture in the lining of the blood vessel wall causes internal bleeding. The leakage is retained by the surrounding soft tissue or the perivascular tissue of the blood vessel, creating a pseudo aneurysm.

Causes of Aneurysm

The exact cause of aneurysm is still unknown but certain factors can contribute to them which includes-

  • Tissue damage to the arteries can lead to aneurysm. The damage may be caused by blockages due to fatty deposits. The blockage can get the heart pumping faster, increasing the pressure on the arteries leading to damage.

  • Conditions such as high blood pressure and atherosclerotic disease can lead to aneurysm.

  • Several systemic conditions can cause vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels, which leads to damaging and weakening of the walls.

Risk factors of Aneurysm

Common risk factors associated with aneurysm are-

  • Being above the age of 60.

  • Being obese.

  • Smoking.

  • Having a diet high in fat and cholesterol.

  • Pregnancy increases the chances of aneurysm developing in the spleen.

  • Family history of heart disease and heart attack.

Symptoms of Aneurysm

In most cases, the aneurysm can be clinically silent, ie. It does not present any symptoms unless it ruptures. However, if present, symptoms usually depend on the location of the aneurysm.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) can be difficult to detect because it is often asymptomatic and slow-growing. In some cases, the aneurysm may never rupture. AAA augmentation can be represented by-

  • Back pain.

  • Deep and constant pain in the abdomen or side of the abdomen.

  • Throbbing near the navel.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) can cause symptoms like-

  • Breathing difficulties.

  • Difficulty swallowing.

  • Pain in the jaw, chest and upper back.

  • Hoarseness.

  • Persistent cough.

  • Shortness of breath.

In case of an unruptured cerebral aneurysm, the following symptoms may occur-

  • Blurred or double vision.

  • Pain above and behind one eye and dilated pupil.

  • Numbness on one side of the face.

A ruptured aneurysm can occur with-

  • Blurred or double vision.

  • Confusion.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Bleeding.

  • Drooping eyelids.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Sensitivity to light.

  • Seizure.

  • Stiff neck.

  • Severe headache.

Diagnosis for Aneurysm

Diagnosing an aneurysm depends on its location. Based on where it is, your doctor might ask you to consult a vascular or cardiothoracic surgeon.

Ultrasound and CT scans are typically used to help diagnose irregularities in the blood vessels.

The CT scans take X-rays of different parts of the body and look for any blockages, disruptions or bulges in the circulatory system.

Treatment for Aneurysm

Treatment for aneurysm depends on its location-

For aneurysm in the chest or abdomen, an endovascular stent graft procedure may be required. Stent grafts are usually over open surgeries as they are less invasive and can be used to reinforce blood vessels and make them stronger.

Lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels is important as well, and you might be recommended medication for that. Lowering blood pressure is important in keeping the aneurysm from rupture.

When to see a doctor?

You need to see a doctor immediately if you suddenly have a severe headache, loss of consciousness, or have other symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm.

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