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The Types of Aneurysm and Their Causes

The Types of Aneurysm and Their Causes

Aneurysm brings fear even to the healthiest of people because it’s notorious for being sudden and fatal. It is the medical term used to describe a weakened artery that bulges or “balloons” outward and may be in danger of bursting. In this article, we will talk about aneurysm types and causes.

Types of Aneurysm

The type of aneurysm depends on the location where the ballooning happened. Generally, we have 3 types, namely abdominal, cerebral, and thoracic.

Abdominal Aneurysm

In an abdominal aortic aneurysm, the aorta or the big blood vessel that brings blood to the legs, pelvis, and abdomen is affected. Like mentioned earlier, the aorta weakens and bulges outward.

Although it can happen to anyone, it’s most common among men over the age of 60 who have at least one risk factor. These risk factors include smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, family history of aneurysm, and emphysema.

Please note that a ruptured aneurysm, regardless of type, is a dangerous occurrence. In most cases, the condition is asymptomatic, but when the signs show up, they may resemble a heart attack. The patient may exhibit:

Thoracic Aneurysm

To continue with the discussion about the aneurysm types and causes, let’s talk about the thoracic aneurysm.

In the thoracic aneurysm, the affected part is the aorta that passes through the chest. Like the abdominal aortic aneurysm, the thoracic aneurysm is also often asymptomatic. However, patients may experience:

  • Back pain
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Shortness of breath

Before the rupture of the aneurysm, the patient may also encounter chest pain.

One interesting thing to note about thoracic aortic aneurysm is that some reports say that syphilis is one risk factor.

Cerebral Aneurysm

A cerebral aneurysm happens when the blood vessel in the brain is affected; hence, it’s also called intracranial or brain aneurysm. Alarmingly, reports say this type of aneurysm affects about 5% of the population.

You can subdivide this into several types, but the most common is called “berry aneurysm.” The size of the bulge in the berry aneurysm may range from a few millimeters to more than 1 centimeter.

Like the thoracic and abdominal aneurysm, a brain aneurysm is also often asymptomatic. However, should a patient show signs and symptoms, they may have:

  • Headache
  • Problems in vision, like double vision or vision loss
  • Eye pain
  • Severe headache
  • Neck pain or stiffness

All the causes discussed earlier also apply to brain aneurysms, but some reports add that women are more likely to develop cerebral aneurysms than men, especially after menopause. This could be due to the decreased estrogen level.

Other Common Types of Aneurysm

Aside from the three mentioned above, the other common types of aneurysm are:

  • Splenic Artery Aneurysm – In this type, the artery affected is in the spleen.
  • Mesenteric Artery Aneurysm – The artery that weakened and bulged is in the intestine.
  • Popliteal Artery Aneurysm – The artery behind the leg or knee is affected.

Causes of Aneurysm

At this point, you may be wondering, what causes this bulging or ballooning of the blood vessels. Let’s talk about the causes of aneurysm.


Experts say that about 80% of aortic aneurysm is caused by the hardening of the arteries, a condition more popularly known as atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis could happen when substances like fat and cholesterol build up inside the walls of the arteries. This condition encourages the breakdown of two substances, collagen, and elastin, which make up the framework of your arteries. The thing is, elastin and collagen are important in maintaining the elasticity, strength, and structure of the aorta (big artery).

If this happens in an extended period, the aorta may weaken and expand, ultimately resulting in an aneurysm.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Atherosclerosis

Since atherosclerosis could potentially result in an aneurysm, it’s also essential to discuss its risk factors. According to Stanford Health Care, the following are the risk factors of atherosclerosis:

  • Age over 60
  • Diabetes
  • Elevated fats in the blood, a condition called hyperlipidemia
  • Genetic factors and family history
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension

Other Medical Conditions

Now, aside from atherosclerosis, other conditions may also cause aneurysm:

  • Inflammatory Diseases. Since they may block the blood flow and eventually weaken the aorta. One good example is Takayasu’s arteritis.
  • Genetic Connective Tissue Disorders. As they, too, may weaken the aorta and cause tears. Examples include Marfan syndrome and Ehler-Danlos syndrome. In both of these conditions, the connective tissues are defective and can’t provide the necessary support.
  • Physical Trauma. For instance, a vehicular accident that causes severe physical trauma to the abdomen and chest may result in an abdominal or thoracic aneurysm. Likewise, trauma to the head may result in a brain aneurysm.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Aneurysm

Aside from atherosclerosis and the other conditions mentioned above, doctors also consider some factors that may heighten the risk of developing aneurysms. They are:

  • Cigarette Smoking. This is perhaps one of the strongest risk factors as tobacco could weaken the aorta and increase the risk of weakening and rupture.
  • High Blood Pressure. Due to increased pressure, the walls of the aorta may weaken.
  • Infection to the aorta. And of course, since an infection to the aorta may cause inflammation, it may also result in the weakening of the vessel. However, aneurysm due to infection is rare.

aneurysm types and causes

Key Takeaways

Many reports link atheorosclerosis to aneurysms. With your knowledge about the aneurysm types and causes, you’ll feel more motivated to take better care of your arteries by reducing or eliminating risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and hyperlipidemia.

Learn more about Aneurysm here.

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

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jul 06
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.