Blood is carried through the body via a system of blood vessels made up of arteries and veins. Sometimes, these blood vessels can get damaged.
An aneurysm is the dilation of a blood vessel in an area where the wall has thinned. The blood vessel balloons and forms a pocket within very fragile walls. This blood vessel can rupture and cause serious complications. Aneurysms typically occur in the arteries and can affect any area of the body (e.g., brain and leg arteries).
Aneurysms often present no symptoms. However, certain symptoms may occur, and they can vary depending on the area affected:
- Persistent stomach, chest, or back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Possible complications include the rupturing of the aneurysm. When this happens, the affected person must be rushed to the hospital. They will often experience sudden and severe pain.
Causes and triggers
Aneurysms may be caused by several risk factors. The exact cause is not fully known. The buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) on the blood vessel walls is believed to contribute to their development.
In addition, the following factors may increase the risk of developing an aneurysm:
- Old age
- Being male
- Having a family member with an aneurysm
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- Being overweight or obese
- Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)
Treatment and prevention vary from one person to the next depending on several factors, including the cause, age, size, and location of the aneurysm. Options include:
- Ultrasound monitoring
- Monitoring and preventing risk factors by doing the following:
- Taking proper medication (cholesterol, lipids, hypertension, diabetes)
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight if you are obese or overweight
- Undergoing surgery
When should I see a health care professional?
Call 911 immediately in the following cases:
- You have an aneurysm and experience sudden and severe pain.