Aneurysm: All You Need to Know

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Update Date 21/08/2020 . 5 mins read
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Types and Incidence

An aneurysm happens when an artery gets weakened to a point that it starts to “balloon” out or stretch. Aneurysms are especially risky when they occur near the brain, or a vital organ, since it can rupture and cause internal bleeding. Aneurysm treatment is crucial when it comes to preventing a ruptured aneurysm.

Aneurysms can occur anywhere in the body, but the more common locations are the following:

  • In a major artery in the heart, called an aortic aneurysm
  • A cerebral aneurysm or an aneurysm that occurs in the brain
  • Popliteal artery aneurysm or an aneurysm that occurs in the artery behind the knee
  • Mesenteric artery aneurysm which happens to an artery in the intestine
  • Splenic artery aneurysm or an aneurysm that happens to an artery in the spleen

How common are aneurysms?

It is not easy to find out how many people worldwide have some form of aneurysm, as they largely go undetected. But around 3.2% of the global population has a cerebral aneurysm.

The average age of people with a cerebral aneurysm is around 50, with about half being men and half are women.

But for people above 50, cerebral aneurysm is more prevalent among women. This might be related to lower levels of estrogen as women grow older, which also lowers the collagen content in the blood vessels.

Despite aneurysms being more common among the older generation, it is still possible for a young person to develop an aneurysm.

And knowing the symptoms and getting the right aneurysm treatment can help lower the risks associated with an aneurysm.

Signs and Symptoms

Aneurysms generally do not cause any outward symptoms until they rupture.

This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to detect an aneurysm early on. An aneurysm is usually discovered after it ruptures, and by that point, it could put the person’s life at risk.

The common symptoms of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm are:

  • Severe headaches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Blurred or loss of vision

10 Signs of Aneurysm to Watch Out For

For abdominal aneurysms, here are the common symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen, back, or the sides
  • Feeling full after eating a small meal
  • A feeling that there is something pulsating in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting

For ruptured aortic aneurysms, the most common symptom is a sharp, stabbing pain in the chest and loss of consciousness.

When should I see my doctor?

An aneurysm that has not ruptured is almost impossible to detect without undergoing tests such as an MRI.

So it would be difficult to find out when you need to go to the doctor since unruptured aneurysms also do not have any symptoms.

More often than not, unruptured aneurysms are discovered incidentally during a CT scan or an MRI scan.

If a doctor does diagnose you with an aneurysm, you can work closely with them to lower the risk of rupture.

However, it is worth noting that ruptured aneurysms do exhibit symptoms. So it is important to immediately seek medical attention if you feel that an aneurysm has ruptured. Aneurysm treatment needs to happen as soon as possible for the best chance of survival.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of an aneurysm can vary from person to person. In some cases, an aneurysm could be hereditary, while for others, it could be the result trauma or injury.

Experts and scientists are still trying to find out what exactly causes an aneurysm, but certain risk factors have been identified over the years—all of which can increase a person’s risk of developing an aneurysm.

What increases my risk for an aneurysm?

There are many risk factors for aneurysm. Here are some of those risk factors:

  • Smoking has been found to increase a person’s risk of developing an aneurysm. It is still unknown why this is the case, but studies have found that the majority of people with a brain aneurysm are smokers, or have smoked in the past.
  • Having high blood pressure or hypertension can increase a person’s risk for developing an aneurysm. Over time, high blood pressure can weaken blood vessels, making them more prone to aneurysm.
  • Aneurysm can also be hereditary. This means that if you have a parent, brother, or sister with a brain aneurysm, you also have an increased risk of developing an aneurysm.
  • Age also plays a role, as people over 40 have a higher chance of developing an aneurysm compared to someone younger.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In terms of diagnosis, here are some of the ways that an aneurysm can be detected:

  • A CAT scan or CT scan can be done in order to check for aneurysms. However, this is usually done for aneurysms that have already ruptured.
  • A magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan can be done in order to look for aneurysms that have not ruptured. This helps doctors identify any possible risks, as well as if the aneurysms can be treated before they rupture.
  • A procedure called a lumbar puncture can also be done by doctors to check for an aneurysm. In this procedure, a needle is inserted into the spine, in order to get a sample of the spinal fluid. Doctors will then conduct tests to identify if there are possible signs of bleeding.

If doctors detect an aneurysm, then they will inform you as to what aneurysm treatment would be best to avoid future complications.

How is an aneurysm treated?

Aneurysm treatment varies depending on whether or not the aneurysm has ruptured.

If the aneurysm has not ruptured, it can be treated through the following ways:

  • A process called neurosurgical clipping is a form of aneurysm treatment wherein surgery is done to seal off an aneurysm in the brain in order to prevent it from rupturing. This is usually done along with a process called a bypass wherein a blood vessel is taken from somewhere in the body, and it is then used to divert the flow of blood around the aneurysm.
  • Another process is called endovascular coiling. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted into an artery going to the aneurysm. Afterwards, small coils made of platinum are stuffed inside the aneurysm. These coils block any blood flow to the aneurysm, which prevents it from rupturing.

In terms of aneurysm treatment, coiling is less invasive compared to clipping. Coiling also has a lower chance of complications.

However, coiling might need to be done more than once in order to ensure that the aneurysm will not rupture.

If an aneurysm has already ruptured, then the aneurysm treatment will be different.

A drug called nimodipine will be given by doctors in order to make sure that there is enough blood going to the brain. Afterwards, surgery will be done in order to either clip or place coils in order to repair the ruptured aneurysm.

The method would depend on whichever the surgeon feels would be best for the patient.

How to Prevent an Aneurysm

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

As with other potentially life-threatening conditions, early detection and intervention is key.

Here are some lifestyle changes and home remedies that could help you manage an aneurysm and prevent it from rupturing:

  • Smoking poses a significant risk when it comes to aneurysm. So if you are a smoker, it would be best to quit as soon as possible to lower the risk of not just aneurysm, but also lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
  • One of the biggest risk factors for aneurysm is high blood pressure. So taking steps to manage your blood pressure and keep it under control can help lower the risk of a rupture.
  • Eating healthy foods also helps lower the risk of aneurysm. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and cut down on foods that are high in sodium.
  • Regular exercise helps keep the heart and blood vessels in good shape. This not only lowers the risk of aneurysm, but also the risk of hypertension, obesity, and heart disease.
  • For people who are overweight or obese, slimming down can lower the risk of aneurysm. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the better your chances are of not developing an aneurysm.

Learn more about the Brain and Nervous System, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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