There are several types of aneurysms, but three are the most serious. In order to understand why an aneurysm is so serious, you need to understand what an aneurysm is and why it causes such a threat to your health.
An aneurysm is the stretching of a segment of a blood vessel. In most cases, aneurisms look like berries hanging off a normal blood vessel. When first detected, an aneurysm will usually appear to be about twice the size of the diameter of the rest of the healthy blood vessel.
Aneurysms can occur in just about any blood vessel, but the aneurysms you will hear most about are brain, abdominal aortic and heart aneurysms. An aneurysm will not hurt you simply by existing; it is the threat of rupture that makes an aneurysm so concerning. A ruptured aneurysm in the wrong spot can cause a stroke, severe internal hemorrhaging, permanent damage to the heart or death.
The Most Common Types of Aneurysms
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
This type of 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, meaning the other arteries are all branches off this main trunk, if you think of your blood vessels as parts of a tree. Sometimes aneurysms develop in the chest, where the thoracic artery branches off of the aorta. Most commonly, however, aneurysms develop in the abdominal cavity, where the femoral arteries that go down your legs branch off the aorta. These are called abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Over 75% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms are found in senior citizens. In fact, around 5% of senior citizens have this kind of aneurysm. If this type of aneurysm ruptures, and 20% do rupture eventually, the patient may bleed to death if the rupture is not detected and the internal bleeding stopped in time.
When aneurysms develop in the chest at the point where the thoracic artery branches off the aorta, they are known as heart or thoracic aneurysms. These aneurysms usually do not produce symptoms in time for action to be taken. When these aneurysms rupture, the patient usually bleeds into the chest cavity, causing death.
Sometimes aneurysms develop in the brain, especially at the base of the brain. Because the blood pressure inside the brain is very high already, any weakness of the blood vessels in the brain presents a high risk of rupture when the body experiences a spike in blood pressure. Brain aneurysms are usually accompanied by intense headaches. They usually result in stroke or death.
If your doctor suspects an aneurysm, she will order a CAT scan to get a look at your blood vessels. If an anuerysm is found, it should be treated as quickly as possible to prevent the risk of rupture. In most cases, your doctor will perform surgery to remove the aneurysm. Follow-up treatment may include regular scans for aneurysms and medication to control blood pressure.