An aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in an artery that is in danger of rupturing. It can affect a wide variety of arteries throughout the body, the most serious of those being arteries that carry blood to the brain and the heart.
There are four different types of aneurysms:
- Cerebral – Occurring in the brain, this type of aneurysm often produces no symptoms and can cause a stroke when it ruptures.
- Abdominal aortic – This type of aneurysm occurs in the aorta, which supplies blood flow to the abdomen, pelvis and legs.
- Thoracic aortic – Often caused by a hardening of the arteries, this type affects the portion of the aorta that passes through the chest cavity.
- Peripheral – This type affects arteries other than the aorta that are not associated with the brain, including the popliteal artery, the femoral artery and the carotid artery.
Causes of Aneurysms
While some aneurysms are congenital (present from birth) or caused by a defect, other factors can increase the risk of developing this condition, such as:
- Having high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Being a cigarette smoker
- Having a condition called atherosclerotic disease
Symptoms of Aneurysms
The symptoms of an aneurysm can vary depending on where it occurs in the body. For example:
- Aneurysms that occur near the surface of the skin can sometimes result in pain, swelling or a throbbing lump.
- Aneurysms that occur in the brain may put pressure on nearby nerves, which can cause headaches, double vision, dizziness and ringing in the ears.
It should be noted that some aneurysms can develop for many years without producing any notable symptoms.
Diagnosis of Aneurysms
Several different tests can be used to diagnose an aneurysm:
- CT scans, which use X-ray machines to create cross-sectional images of the body
- MRI scans, which use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to provide a detailed picture of the organs and tissues in the body
- Cerebral angiograms, which use X-ray machines to produce images of the blood vessels in the head and neck
- Cerebrospinal fluid tests, which checks cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for the presence of blood, which could indicate a rupture
Treatment for Aneurysms
Tampa General Hospital offers many different treatment options for aneurysms. Treatment typically starts with medications that help lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels to keep an aneurysm from rupturing.
Or you may be a candidate for a surgical procedure, such as:
- Endovascular coiling
- Aneurysm clipping
- Flow diversion
- Endovascular repair
Treatment largely depends on the size, location and appearance of the aneurysm as well as your age and overall health.