Understanding Aneurysms

Understanding Aneurysms

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to all areas of your body.  If an artery weakens a balloon like bulge can develop.  This bulge is an aneurysm.  You may have an aneurysm and have no symptoms or knowledge of it.  Aneurysms can occur in any arteries but most aneurysms occur in the aorta.  The aorta is the largest blood vessel and the main artery of the body that carries blood from the heart to the body.  The aorta is located in the chest and the abdomen.

Types of Aneurysms

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm – (TAA) An aneurysm that occurs in the chest portion of the aorta above the diaphragm.  The diaphragm is the muscle that helps you breathe.  This aneurysm may not cause symptoms unless it dissects (the artery wall splits) or grows large.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm – (AAA) An aneurysm that occurs in the abdominal portion of the aorta.  This type of aneurysms develop slowly.  They rarely cause signs or symptoms unless they rupture. This is the most common of the aortic aneurysms.

Cerebral Aneurysm / Brain Aneurysm / Berry Aneurysm  – This is a week spot in a blood vessel inside the brain.  Brain aneurysms can grow, leak or explode.  Bleeding in the brain is called a hemorrhagic stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow is interrupted to part of the brain. Brain cells quickly die without blood to supply oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products.

Popliteal Artery – An aneurysm that occurs in the leg behind the knee.

Mesenteric Artery – An aneurysm that occurs in the intestine.

Splenic Artery – An aneurysm that occurs in the spleen.

Conditions that Increase Risk

  • High Cholesterol -Atherosclerotic disease (plaque buildup in arteries)
  • High blood pressure – (can weaken and enlarge blood vessels)
  • Males are at higher risk than females for an aortic aneurysm
  • Females are at higher risk over males for a brain aneurysm
  • Age – Risk increases for those over 60 years old for most types of aneurysms.  Brain aneurysm risk increases for those over 40 years old with an average age of 50 years old.
  • A family history of heart conditions and/or aneurysms.
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of Cocaine
  • Traumatic Head Injury (brain aneurysm)


You may have no symptoms.  Most do not so paying attention to increased risk factors is important.

An aneurysm close to the surface of the skin may be painful and visible.

A rupturing aneurysm can cause: pain, clammy skin, dizziness, vomiting, increased heart rate, low blood pressure.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms AAA Symptoms can include:  A throbbing feeling in your abdomen. Pain in your back or the side of your abdomen.  Steady abdomen pain that lasts for hours or days.  Your doctor may feel a throbbing mass while checking you