An aneurysm can occur in various places in your body, but they are generally divided among thoracic aneurysms, which occur in the chest, and abdominal aneurysms, which occur below the chest. These occur in your aorta, which is the large artery that feeds both your chest and your torso.
An aneurysm is a small section of an artery that has begun to stretch or balloon out. Imagine the bulge that would occur in a thin garden hose if you were to turn up the pressure but block off the outlet.
The aneurysm forms inside the wall of your artery – between two layers of the wall. The separation of an artery in the formation of an aneurysm is called a dissection.
An aneurysm event can be extremely dangerous with about 10,000 deaths in the United States attributed to aneurysms each year, while about twice that many deaths include aneurysms as a contributing factor. The only medical treatment for an aneurysm is surgery, although medicine to lower blood pressure, quitting smoking and proper exercise can help lower your risk of getting one.
Thoracic, abdominal, cerebral and peripheral
When an aneurysm bursts or ruptures, it causes internal bleeding. This can be extremely dangerous, especially when it occurs on a major artery. Aneurysms often occur behind the heart, while others occur in the aorta or a peripheral artery that feeds internal organs, such as the kidneys.
Peripheral aneurysms also occur in the neck, behind the knees, in the groin area or in the brain, where it is called a cerebral aneurysm. A ruptured cerebral aneurysm is the cause of a stroke, which can be fatal.
Men are more likely than women to have an abdominal aneurysm, while men and women are equally prone to thoracic aneurysms. Overall, two-thirds of all aneurysms occur in men.
What causes an aneurysm?
Various contributing factors increase your risks of an aneurysm. These include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
- Risks increase with age
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
- Marfan Syndrome
Symptoms of a burst aneurysm
There are generally no symptoms for an aneurysm until they rupture. The symptoms also vary depending on where it occurs.
- Shortness of breath
- Sharp pan
- Trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in buttocks
- Throbbing abdominal pain
- Weakness in legs
It is recommended that men aged 65 or older get an ultrasound screening to check for a developing aneurysm. In addition:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Maintain proper cholesterol levels
- Regular exercise
Are you ready for an aneurysm screening? In San Diego, call Pacific Medical Care at 619-333-8114 to schedule an appointment.