Any aneurysm symptoms will depend on the location in the body in which the aneurysm (aneurism) occurs. Aneurysms are bulges in the walls of blood vessels, typically an artery, and usually in the biggest artery in the body, the aorta (aortic aneurysm).
Aneurysms also occur in other locations in the body. These can be the coronary arteries of the heart, the carotid arteries in the neck, the popliteal arteries in the back of the knees, the femoral arteries in the thighs, or the cerebral arteries in the brain.
Aneurysms commonly occur at branching points in arteries. They can form for many reasons, the most common being atherosclerosis with high blood pressure and its weakening of the aortic wall.
Smoking, genetic factors, injury, infections, and some disorders can also lead to the formation of aneurysms. They are more common with increasing age.
Aneurysms are dangerous because they can rupture causing significant blood loss and death. However, they also commonly form blood clots within, which may detach and block arteries perhaps causing stroke or heart attack.
The symptoms of the two most common forms of aortic aneurysms, abdominal and thoracic, are covered below.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
- pulsing in abdomen
- moderate to severe, deep pain in the upper back
- constant severe to extreme pain in lower abdomen (if ruptured)
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
- deep pain in the upper back
- difficulty swallowing
- voice hoarseness
- abnormal pulsing in the chest
- droopy eye, constricted pupil (if nerves are being compressed)
- severe/extreme, deep pain in upper back (if ruptured)
- severe/extreme pain in chest and arms (if ruptured)
Diagnosis is typically through chest x-ray or other imaging technique after an individual has complained of symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not have symptoms or complain of symptoms and thus severe pain of an advanced aneurysm often will lead to diagnosis.
Otherwise, many diagnoses are made following a chance chest x-ray or other imaging technique used during examination of some other disorder or injury.
Treatment is typically with drugs to lower and control blood pressure. Routine monitoring is important to track the status and size of the aneurysm and the effectiveness of any treatments.
Large aneurysms (greater than 5 centimeters wide) are usually surgically repaired as soon as possible since risk of rupture is greater.