An aneurysm is the swelling of a blood vessel. When an aneurysm ruptures, it causes internal bleeding and other dangerous complications.
There are many risk factors associated with Aneurysms and care should be taken to recognize and avoid them.
Different Types of Aneurysm
There are two forms of Aneurysm: Saccular Aneurysms and Fusiform Aneurysms.
Fusiform Aneurysms swell up uniformly on each side, like a balloon.
Saccular aneurysms only swell on one side. A good way to remember this type aneurysm is to note “saccular” sounds like “sack” so imagine a person carrying a sack over their shoulder.
Aneurysms are also categorized by location, the most common of which are the aortic and brain locations.
An aortic Aneurysm occurs in the large artery located in your torso which travels directly away from your heart.
There are two types of aortic aneurysm: one which occurs in the upper torso near your chest called a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm, and the other is lower in your torso located in your abdomen called an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
When a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm ruptures, it can cause acute (sudden) symptoms like:
- Chest pain
- Back pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Rapid heart rate
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms, which are detected before they rupture, are usually discovered during other tests. For example, sometimes an aortic aneurysm can be discovered during a chest x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Acute symptoms for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm include:
- Pain in abdomen
- Pain in back
- Rapid heart rate
Again, this type of aneurysm usually goes undetected until it ruptures or is discovered while being tested for another condition. For example, a doctor doing an ultrasound of your abdomen because they believe you may have a hernia may stumble upon an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
A brain aneurysm normally occurs at the base of the brain. These also carry the name of intracranial aneurysms and cerebral aneurysms. Some brain aneurysms are very small, and people who have them have healthy normal lives without ever knowing.
On the other hand, a brain aneurysm is considered the deadliest type of aneurysm. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 40 percent of ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal, and 66 percent of those who survive a ruptured brain aneurysm suffer some permanent neurological deficit.
People who suffer from a ruptured brain aneurysm usually don’t have any symptoms until the rupture. After a rupture, symptoms set in immediately and include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Droopy eyelids
- Blurred vision
- Dilated pupils
- Stiff neck
Brain aneurysms can be detected with the use of a CT or MRI scan if they’re above 5 millimeters. However, even if an aneurysm is detected treatment may be limited to medication depending on the size of the aneurysm. This is because conducting brain surgery to treat an aneurysm could lead to other serious complications.
Surgeons tend not to operate on brain aneurysms unless they pose a clear threat of rupture.
Aneurysm Risk Factors
An aneurysm causes death, stroke and comas in many people in the United States. So what leads to these aneurysms?
A damaged arterial wall leads to an aneurysm. Certain conditions and unhealthy choices can increase the risk of an aneurysm, which includes:
- High blood pressure
- A family history of heart conditions or aneurysms
- Poor diet
- Use of tobacco
- High Cholesterol
- Old age
It’s important to note while these conditions can increase the risk of an aneurysm, they can occur without a clear underlying cause.
Aneurysms are incredibly discrete, hence why unruptured aneurysms tend to be discovered while testing for other medical issues.
If you suffer from acute symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm, call 911 immediately or have someone drive you to the hospital. Time is extremely important in treating a ruptured aneurysm.
Furthermore, not all aneurysms rupture entirely. Sometimes they split at the seams of the arterial wall causing a dissection and allowing blood to leak out over time.
Surgeries to treat aneurysms can have their own risks induce medical complications.
For example, an abdominal aortic aneurysm requires an incision through the abdomen to expose the aorta. Doing so raises the risks of blood clots which could lead to a heart attack and stroke. Other complications could lead to kidney failure, perfuse bleeding and your body rejecting the graft or stent used to repair your aorta.
The Reality of Aneurysms
Ruptured aneurysms are rare, but they do happen.
Having a healthy daily routine and proactively taking care of your heart can tremendously lower your chances of an aneurysm. Although catching an aneurysm before it ruptures is tricky, and only a doctor has the know-how and tools to diagnose an Aneurysm before it becomes dangerous.
People over the age of 40 are at the highest risk for developing an aneurysm, thus checking in with a doctor for a screening should be incorporated into your next checkup.