Home   >   Medicine   >   Cardiovascular Disorders
Aneurysm Types Symptoms Causes Treatment

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:

  • Deep penetrating pain in your back or the side of your abdomen
  • Steady gnawing pain in your abdomen that lasts for hours or days at a time
  • Coldness, numbness, or tingling in your feet due to blocked blood flow in your legs

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:

  • Pain in your jaw, neck, upper back (or other part of your back), or chest
  • Coughing, hoarseness, or trouble breathing
Cerebral Aneurysm

If a cerebral (brain) aneurysm presses on nerves in your brain, it can cause signs and symptoms. These can include:

  • A droopy eyelid
  • Double vision or other changes in vision
  • Pain above or behind the eye
  • A dilated pupil
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body

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.

Peripheral Aneurysm

Signs and symptoms of peripheral aneurysm may include:

  • A pulsating lump that can be felt in your neck, arm, or leg
  • Leg or arm pain, or cramping with exercise
  • Painful sores on toes or fingers
  • Gangrene (tissue death) from severely blocked blood flow in your limbs

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.

Diagnosis

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:

  • Chest x ray. A chest x ray provides a picture of the organs and structures inside the chest, including the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
  • Ultrasound. This simple and painless test uses sound waves to create a picture of the inside of the body. It shows the size of an aneurysm, if one is detected. The ultrasound scan may be repeated every few months to see how quickly an aneurysm is growing.
  • CT scan. A CT scan provides computer-generated, x-ray images of the internal organs. A CT scan may be performed if the doctor suspects a TAA or AAA. A liquid dye that can be seen on an x ray is injected into an arm vein to outline the aorta or artery on the CT scan. The CT scan images can be used to determine the size and shape of an abdominal aneurysm more accurately than an ultrasound.
  • MRI. MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create images of the inside of the body. It is very accurate in detecting aneurysms and determining their size and exact location.
  • Angiography. Angiography also uses a special dye injected into the blood stream to make the insides of arteries show up on x-ray pictures. An angiogram shows the amount of damage and blockage in blood vessels.
  • Aortogram. An aortogram is an angiogram of the aorta. It may show the location and size of an aortic aneurysm, and the arteries of the aorta that are involved.