Can an Aneurysm Happen To You?

In movies and television shows, the roles of patients with aneurysms are often played by actors or actresses who are attractive middle-aged adults in dramatic scenes that take place in hospital rooms.

So those who are older or younger than this often make the mistake of thinking that this condition can never happen to them because they seem to feel just fine. In reality, aneurysms can occur in people of any ethnicity, sex, or age. And they may produce no initial symptoms until it is too late. That is why it is very important that all people become aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatment options that are available for this condition.

What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm, in its most basic terms, is a badly damaged area of an artery that causes it to bulge out into a balloon-like shape. Sometimes, the body will attempt to heal the artery in the only way that it can with blood clots and plaque. But this often isn't enough to withstand the force of the pressure of the blood pumping through the long tubes. So, if an aneurysm goes untreated, it most often will rupture. This is problematic because many aneurysms occur in the head, abdomen, and chest where vital organs are dependent on blood flow. If the blood flow to them is constricted, or stops altogether, the organs will quickly starve from the lack of oxygen and nutrition that they need.

Symptoms of an Aneurysm

At first, aneurysms often produce no initial symptoms. This changes quickly as they progress in size though. Their location in the body can also affect the type of symptoms that a person has. For example, someone who has an aneurysm in their abdomen might have tenderness, swelling, or a sensation of pressure close to their waistline. But if the aneurysm is in the head, there could be eye pain, confusion, and headaches instead. If an aneurysm happens in an arm or a leg, pain and weakness in the limb are more common, especially if any blood clots that are present break away.

Causes of Aneurysms

One of the main causes of this condition is smoking because of the damage that it inflicts on the arteries of the body and the way that it increases a person's blood pressure over time. As it thins each of the artery's walls, they simply cannot withstand the pressure of the blood that the heart pumps through them anymore. Those who don't smoke, but still have high blood pressure, are also at risk. Another way that an aneurysm can happen is by damage from obesity because the extra weight makes the heart work harder than it would normally have to if the person was at a healthy weight. Congenital defects of the arteries and trauma from an accident that induces a large amount of force on the body can both also cause this condition. And so can an infection of the lining of the heart that inflames and dilates an artery.

Treatment Options

More often than not, doctors take a wait-and-see approach to treating aneurysms if they are still small when they are found. This is mainly because the surgery that is used to repair them is so dangerous. It often requires putting in a stent over the bulging artery walls to reinforce them, so they don't rupture. If the artery walls are too thin, they could tear during the surgery, which would result in death. It is also possible to have complications from the stents because they could either migrate or damage the tissue even further. Once an aneurysm is several centimeters in diameter, the risk of it rupturing on its own increases dramatically, so doctors often have no choice but to do the surgery anyways.

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