An aneurysm is a weak spot on the wall of a blood vessel, most often an artery. Aneurysms can be present in several parts of the body.
Types and Locations of Aneurysms
The symptoms depend on the location of the aneurysm, as follows:
Brain aneurysm – Pounding headaches, eye conditions (pain, blurred vision and more), numbness and paralysis.
Chest aneurysm – Pain, often sharp, in the neck, chest, back and abdomen.
Heart aneurysm – Chest pain, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath.
Abdominal aneurysm – Back, abdominal and groin pain.
Leg aneurysm – Weakness and discoloration in leg.
Aneurysms may be present at birth. They develop over a number of years as injury, disease or defect further weaken the vessel. In most cases, aneurysms go undetected until they rupture. If an aneurysm ruptures, a person may experience:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
People at Risk of Aneurysm
- People older than 55
- Substance abusers, including smokers and cocaine users
- People with high blood pressure, previous blood infections or hardening of the arteries
- People who have suffered trauma
- People with a family history
Because there is a high risk of death after an aneurysm bursts, quick medical attention is needed. Surgery may stop the bleeding and prevent the aneurysm from happening again. Aneurysms that have not ruptured sometimes are found during medical tests for other conditions. The doctor will decide on a course of action based on:
- The aneurysm’s location and size
- The aneurysm’s affect on the patient
- The patient’s age and medical history
Treatment of an aneurysm can include surgery using endoscopic/microvascular techniques with leading-edge endovascular monitoring. The doctors here at St. Luke's are well-versed in these treatments.
There are no known ways to prevent aneurysms, but it is good to know the risk factors and act upon them. Age and hypertension are primary risk factors. And, people who smoke or who have high blood pressure that has not been treated also run a higher risk of aneurysm. Finally, some aneurysms—such as the abdominal and chest types—are hereditary. People whose family members have suffered from aneurysms should tell their doctors about it.