Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms

Abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms are cause for immediate concern. While the anuerysm itself doesn't put you in immediate danger, you could bleed to death internally if it ruptures.

What Is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
An aneurysm is, quite simply, a weak spot in a blood vessel that fills up with blood. If you've ever seen a hose with a big bubble on its side, you've got a good idea of what an aneurysm looks like.

Over time, as pressure builds inside the aneurysm, the risk of it bursting increases. Because these weak spots occur on some of the most important blood vessels in the human body, there is a real risk of death from internal hemorrhaging if an aneurysm bursts. In many cases, the patient dies before doctors even realize what's happening.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is found on the abdominal aortic artery. The aorta is the biggest artery you have running through your body. It brings blood from the heart to the other parts of your body. More than 75% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms are found in senior citizens. These aneurysms sometimes develop in the chest, where the thoracic artery branches off of the aorta, but they most commonly form in the abdominal cavity, where the femoral arteries that go down your legs branch off the aorta. Since this is one of the largest blood vessels in the human body, a rupture can cause a person to bleed to death in minutes. 

What are Typical Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms?

  • Severe Pain: The most common symptom is strong pain in the abdomen, flank or back that doesn't go away if you change positions. There are several causes of this kind of pain, so a doctor's exam and a CAT scan are needed to pinpoint the cause. During an initial exam, your doctor will use a stethoscope to check for a pulse in your abdomen.
  • Loss of Appetite: Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite can all point to an aneurysm. These symptoms will be present no matter what you eat.
  • Strange Sensations in One Leg: You may feel coolness, numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation in one leg because of the partial blockage of the femoral artery. This is a fairly rare symptom.  
  • No Symptoms at All: Unfortunately, most aneurysms do not produce symptoms at all. Your doctor may suspect you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm if she hears a pulsating sound when she listens to your abdomen with a stethoscope, but that may be the only symptom you exhibit.

What Can be Done?
Your doctor will probably opt for surgical repair of the weakened blood vessel followed by a regimen aimed at reducing your blood pressure. However, if the aneurysm is small and you are at high risk for a heart attack, your doctor may opt to simply monitor the aneurysm. Many people, especially senor citizens, are at a high risk of heart attack during the surgery that is usually needed to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. If your doctor feels the risk of rupture is low and your risk of heart attack during surgery is high, the best option may be to avoid stress, lower your blood pressure and refrain from heavy lifting.

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