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The signs and symptoms of an aneurysm depend on its type, location, and whether it has ruptured or is interfering with other structures in the body. Aneurysms can develop and grow for years without causing any signs or symptoms. It is often not until an aneurysm ruptures or grows large enough to press on nearby parts of the body or block blood flow that it produces any signs or symptoms.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Most abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) develop slowly over years and have no signs or symptoms until (or if) they rupture. Sometimes, a doctor can feel a pulsating mass while examining a patient's abdomen. When symptoms are present, they can include:
If an AAA ruptures, symptoms can include sudden, severe pain in your lower abdomen and back; nausea and vomiting; clammy, sweaty skin; lightheadedness; and a rapid heart rate when standing up. Internal bleeding from a ruptured AAA can send you into shock. Shock is a life-threatening condition in which the organs of the body do not get enough blood flow.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
A thoracic (chest) aortic aneurysm may have no symptoms until the aneurysm begins to leak or grow. Signs or symptoms may include:
If a cerebral (brain) aneurysm presses on nerves in your brain, it can cause signs and symptoms. These can include:
If a cerebral aneurysm ruptures, symptoms can include a sudden, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, loss of consciousness, and signs of a stroke. Signs of a stroke are similar to those listed above for cerebral aneurysm, but they usually come on suddenly and are more severe. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral aneurysm may include:
An aneurysm in the popliteal artery (behind the knee) can compress nerves and cause pain, weakness, and numbness in your knee and leg.
Blood clots can form in peripheral aneurysms. If a clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream, it can lodge in your arm, leg, or brain and block the artery. An aneurysm in your neck can block the artery to the brain and cause a stroke.
An aneurysm may be found by chance during a routine physical exam. More often, an aneurysm is found by chance during an x ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan performed for another reason, such as chest or abdominal pain.
If you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), the doctor may feel a pulsating mass in your abdomen. A rapidly growing aneurysm about to rupture can be tender and very painful when pressed. If you are overweight or obese, it may be difficult for your doctor to feel even a large abdominal aneurysm.
If you have an AAA, your doctor may hear rushing blood flow instead of the normal whooshing sound when listening to your abdomen with a stethoscope.
Diagnostic Tests and Procedures
To diagnose and evaluate an aneurysm, one or more of the following tests or procedures may be performed: