An aneurysm usually occurs in the arteries, mainly due to the weakening of the arterial wall. The various causes, symptoms, as well as the treatment of this condition are discussed in this HealthHearty article.
An aneurysm can be described as a localized dilation or widening of the blood vessels. This condition more commonly affects the arteries. It results due to the weakening of the arterial wall. The affected artery bulges out at the weakened spot and form a blood-filled, sac-like structure. If the size of the aneurysm increases, it can rupture and cause hemorrhage.
It usually occurs in places like the abdomen, brain, and the chest. In general, aneurysms can be of two types, brain aneurysm and aortic aneurysm. When an aneurysm develops in the aorta, and the aorta bulges out at the site where the arterial wall weakens, it is known as aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm more commonly occurs in the abdomen or the chest. If it takes place in the abdomen, it is known as the abdominal aortic aneurysm. A thoracic aortic aneurysm on the other hand, refers to an aortic aneurysm that occurs in the chest or thorax.
What Causes Aneurysm
The causes of this condition are not known with certainty. Sometimes, it can be present at birth, which is known as congenital aneurysm. Many people on the other hand, can develop this condition later in life. Several factors can raise the risk of developing an aneurysm. Some such factors include, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, high levels of serum cholesterol, trauma or injury, smoking and tobacco use, old age, polycystic kidney disease, alcoholism, diabetes, and a family history of aneurysms.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of this condition can differ significantly depending on its location. For example, the symptoms of a brain aneurysm are different from the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm. In the case of a small brain aneurysm, there may not be any discernible symptom, and this condition can be detected only during the tests and examinations carried out for another condition.
If a brain aneurysm ruptures, it can produce several symptoms like sudden and intense headache, neck pain and stiffness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, an increased sensitivity to light, drowsiness, speech impairment, confusion, and seizures. Occasionally, symptoms like pain behind or above the eye, dilated pupil, double vision, and numbness or weakness in one side of the face can also be observed in brain aneurysms. On the other hand, a small brain aneurysm that has not ruptured, may not produce any symptom.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
This condition may not exhibit any symptom in the early stage. Usually, symptoms can be observed when the aneurysm grows in size. A growing aneurysm in the abdomen can cause pain near the navel, that can spread to the back as well. Its other symptoms include, abdominal swelling, a pulsating sensation in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, and rapid heart rate.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
Thoracic aortic aneurysms on the other hand, can cause chest and neck pain, back pain, difficulty in swallowing, coughing, hoarseness of voice, drooping eyelids, and constricted pupil. An aneurysm of the heart is rare, but it can happen at times. Sometimes, it can occur within a few days following a major heart attack. The most common symptoms of this condition are, chest pain, jaw pain, difficulty in breathing, and pain in the arms.
Treatment for Aneurysm
The diagnostic procedures employed for detecting this condition include, angiography, CT scan, MRI, and echocardiography. As far as its treatment is concerned, physicians may opt for the ‘wait and watch approach’, especially if the aortic aneurysm is too small. However, the aneurysm needs to be monitored regularly to find out whether it is growing in size. If the aneurysm is large and growing, then surgery will be required for it treatment. If the aneurysm is in the abdomen, then a physician can carry out open or endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery.
For a thoracic aortic aneurysm, surgery is recommended when it is 2.2 inches or larger. Surgery can be recommended for smaller aneurysms as well, if the affected individual has ‘Marfan syndrome’ or a family history of aortic dissection. A brain aneurysm is also treated with surgery. Certain medications can also be required for its treatment, basically to relieve the symptoms associated with a ruptured brain aneurysm. Such medications include, calcium channel blockers, anti-seizure medications, pain relievers, etc.
It may be possible to prevent this condition by controlling blood pressure, and keeping the level of cholesterol at a healthy level. A healthy and balanced diet along with regular physical activities can also prove helpful in this regard.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.