Aneurysm: causes, symptoms, complications, treatment

An aneurysm is a local dilation or bulge of a blood vessel. An aneurysm develops without being noticeable and grows steadily. The dilation can occur in arteries, veins and the heart, but the large body vein or aorta is most commonly affected. An aneurysm is a consequence of arteriosclerosis, also called atherosclerosis. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes mellitus and high blood cholesterol.

Article content

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Causes of aneurysm
  • Aneurysm symptoms
  • Complications of an aneurysm
  • Diagnosis of aneurysm
  • Aneurysm treatment
  • Aneurysm prognosis


Aortic aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is a life-threatening condition because the aorta is the body’s main artery. It is an enlargement of part of the aorta , caused by a weakening of the vessel wall. More than ninety percent of aortic aneurysms occur in the abdomen, below the kidneys. Sometimes this type of aneurysm is more common in certain families. It is also possible for an aortic aneurysm to develop in the chest. An aortic aneurysm is more common in people over sixty-five years of age and more common in men . Risk factors include smoking, fatty foods, little exercise and being overweight.

Causes of aneurysm

The cause is usually not clear, but an aneurysm often occurs together with atherosclerosis . Atherosclerosis involves the deposition of fats on the wall of the artery. Smoking, an unhealthy diet, little exercise and being overweight increase the risk of developing this condition. Men are more likely to suffer from an aneurysm, and it also occurs more frequently in people with high blood pressure. It almost never happens, but an injury or congenital weakness of the artery wall can also lead to an aneurysm. Marfan’s disease (a rare, hereditary disease) can lead to the formation of an aneurysm (in the chest cavity). Marfan’s disease is caused by a deficiency of a certain protein, which causes extra growth in height and problems with the eyes, but also with the heart and blood vessels.

Aneurysm symptoms

An aneurysm in the aorta usually does not cause any complaints . If it is a large aneurysm, it can cause pain. Usually someone only notices something when the aneurysm threatens to rupture . The complaints depend on the location of the aneurysm. Contact a doctor immediately if you have the following complaints!

  • Complaints of an abdominal aneurysm: pain in the back that can radiate to the abdomen and groin, and a throbbing feeling in the abdomen.
  • Complaints of a chest aneurysm: pain in the chest or high in the back (between the shoulder blades), coughing and wheezing, problems with swallowing and hoarseness.


Complications of an aneurysm

The larger the aneurysm, the greater the chance that the aneurysm will rupture. This can lead to internal bleeding and be fatal. With a sudden vascular rupture, the symptoms are: possibly severe pain, loss of consciousness, a rapid pulse and shock. It is also possible that the inner layer of the artery tears apart from the outer layer, causing blood to get between the two layers. Called dissection , it usually occurs in the chest.

Diagnosis of aneurysm

Because there are often no complaints, an aneurysm will usually be found ‘accidentally’ . For example, during a general medical examination, if the doctor discovers swelling in the abdomen. Or with an X-ray taken in connection with another complaint. Sometimes men over the age of sixty-five are specially checked for the condition. If an aneurysm is discovered, the cross-section can be monitored by ultrasound. A CT scan can be used to examine the arteries that are affected more precisely.

Aneurysm treatment

An aneurysm can be treated by surgery. Whether a doctor chooses surgery will depend on a number of elements: age, general health, the location of the aneurysm and its size. In the case of a large aneurysm, an artificial blood vessel is attached to the weakened part of the artery wall. In the event of a ruptured or ruptured aneurysm, surgery is performed immediately. If surgery is not immediately necessary, you will sometimes be prescribed beta blockers during the waiting period to avoid complications. A dissection is caused by the tearing of the middle layer of the aorta. Without surgery it will lead to an aneurysm dissecans .

Aneurysm prognosis

Once the aneurysm has been resolved, it is important to do something about the risk factors . Paying attention to your diet (eating with little fat), exercising regularly and quitting smoking is very important! If an aneurysm is treated surgically before it has ruptured or ruptured, there is a good chance of recovery. But if the aneurysm bursts or ruptures , only fifteen to thirty percent survive. It depends on the location of the aneurysm, which artery is affected, but it is also important that someone is taken to hospital very quickly.

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