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Aneurysm Overview

Aneurysm Overview

Aneurysms occur when a part of the artery wall is damaged and weakened, allowing it to “balloon out” or expand.  When the wall of a blood vessel weakens, a balloon-like dilation called an aneurysm sometimes develops over a long time. This happens most often in the abdominal aorta, an essential blood vessel that supplies blood to your legs but can happen in any artery of the body.

The most serious threat an aneurysm poses is rupture, which causes massive bleeding to occur. It is of extreme importance to find the aneurysm first, prior to rupture, to repair the diseased artery.

Are there different types of aneurysms?

  • Aortic aneurysm – this type occurs in the aorta, and it is related to “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis. It can be an inherited condition or complication of high blood pressure or smoking.
  • Cerebral aneurysm – this type occurs in the wall of the blood vessels in the brain and can cause a bleeding stroke. Hypertension and smoking increase the risk.
  • Popliteal aneurysm – a weakness or bulging in the artery wall that supplies blood to the knee, calf, and feet. This can be related to PAD and trauma to the knee.
  • Ventricular aneurysm – this occurs when a bulge in the wall of your heart is present. Those who have experienced previous heart attacks or severe chest injury are most at risk.

Aneurysm Causes & Risk Factors

If you have a condition that weakens the artery walls, you are more at risk. These types of factors would include atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and high intensity or long-term smoking.

Risk Factors that may increase your chance of developing aneurysm:

  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Tobacco Use
man checking his blood pressure

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You Have a Choice When It Comes to Vascular Care.
Get an Appointment at VIC In 3 to 5 Days – Without a Referral!

Aneurysm Signs & Symptoms

Ruptured Aortic or Peripheral Artery Aneurysms

Ruptured aortic or peripheral artery aneurysms often present with severe pain and low blood pressure.

Specific Signs & Symptoms

  • Dizziness & vision changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal, low back, or flank pain
  • Chest or upper back pain
  • Cyanosis (blue coloration) in the lower extremities
  • Confusion, fatigue, shock
man having an aortic aneurysm

Ruptured Cerebral Aneurysms

Ruptured cerebral aneurysms present with a sudden severe headache.  Many describe this as being the worst headache they have ever experienced.

Specific Signs & Symptoms

  • Sudden extreme headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Stiff neck, blurry vision
  • Seizure
  • Light sensitivity
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Leaking Aneurysms

A leaking aneurysm is when the aneurysm leaks a slight amount of blood but does not fully rupture.  This condition may cause sudden, severe headaches. This is an emergency often requiring a surgical intervention.

man with a headache from an aneurysm

Aneurysm Diagnosis

Your medical provider will begin by asking you questions to ascertain a complete history of the patient. In the exam, he/she may do the following:

  • Listen to your heart
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Feel the arteries in your neck and listen to them
  • Check your abdomen for a mass
  • Check behind the knees

After the provider completes the exam, an ultrasound test may be ordered.  This is a simple, painless, non-invasive test that will allow for measuring and locating exactly where the aneurysm lies in the body. Additionally, a CT scan may also be ordered to gain more detail of the aneurysm.

doctor with stethoscope around his neck

Aneurysm Treatment

The only way of treating an aneurysm is through a surgical procedure; this can be an open repair or an endovascular procedure. In some cases when the aneurysm is too risky to operate on, lifestyle modifications and medications may be used to monitor and control the situation. Due to the risk involved in aneurysm repair, many doctors will defer to medication optimization, risk factor modification, and observation of the small aneurysms until the risk-benefit ratio favors surgery.

Aneurysm Prevention

The best preventative steps would be to reduce your risk factors that you are able to control and to be aware of the ones that you cannot control. Be aware if you are in the at-risk category and pay attention and listen to your body. The best defense is early detection.  If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Woman refusing a pack of cigarettes to prevent aneurysms

Aneurysm Progression

The location of the aneurysm will determine the severity and progression. The most important thing you can do is to be diagnosed and treated early. Maintain routine exams and follow up with your doctor as prescribed.


Aortic aneurysms occurring in the abdominal aorta, and cerebral aneurysms within the brain are linked to the hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.  This condition can either be genetic or caused by high blood pressure and especially high-intensity or long-duration smoking.

The only way to treat/repair an aneurysm is to have it repaired with a surgical procedure or an endovascular surgical approach.

Sudden severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, blurred/double vision, light sensitivity, seizure, drooping eyelids, confusion

Your doctor will begin with a history and physical, including family history and a complete exam – listening to your heart, blood pressure check, checking the artery flow in your neck, feeling the abdomen for masses, and checking behind the knees for popliteal aneurysms.


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