Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An aneurysm is a condition where the insides of the artery wall are weak, inflamed or bulging. The constant flow of blood weakens the area. This can cause a rupture of the artery, leading to internal bleeding, strokes and/or death.
Causes, Types And Symptoms Of Aneurysms?
Though the precise cause of an aneurysm is not clear currently, there are several factors that contribute to their occurrence.
● Hypertension: Typical blood-pressure for an adult is considered to be at or slightly below 120/80 mmHG (millimetres of mercury). This denotes the pressure on the arterial walls as it traverses through them. Higher pressure can weaken or enlarge the blood vessels, sometimes causing them to balloon or bulge out.
● Atherosclerosis: When plaque and fatty deposits build-up along the artery walls and make them narrower, blood pressure builds up, leading to the risk of developing aneurysms.
● Injury/Accident: Trauma can damage the arterial walls, causing bulges and ballooning. Arterial junctions are also vulnerable points, where there is high stress from blood flow. Aneurysms may occur at these locations.
● Tumors: Malignant/non-malignant growths can push against the blood-vessels, exerting excessive pressure on them.
● Genetic factors: Certain types of aneurysms such as abdominal aneurysms seem to run in families, posing the risk of being passed down generations. Women are more prone to develop brain aneurysms, while African Americans are at a higher risk than Caucasians.
● Lifestyle factors: Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise along with sedentary occupations, obesity, and stress can result in high blood pressure, which increases aneurysm risks.
● Infections: Rare conditions like mycotic aneurysm occur as a result of bacterial infections, or diseases like syphilis, vasculitis, endocarditis, etc.
Aneurysms can occur in any part of the body, but they’re most common in the brain, aorta, legs (especially behind the knees), intestine and spleen.
Strangely enough, though brain aneurysms sound very dangerous, most of them go undetected, without resulting in health problems or symptoms. They may be of different types such as ruptured, leaking or unruptured.
Though the symptoms vary with type and location, in general, symptoms are present only after rupture occurs.
● Aneurysms located close to the body’s surface show swelling and pain, sometimes leading to the development of a large mass at that point.
● Otherwise, the symptoms include bleeding, rapid heart-rate and pulse, severe pain, dizziness and fainting.
● Vomiting and nausea
● Vision disturbance
● Stiff/Painful neck
● Brain aneurysms present symptoms like sudden, severe headache, blurred vision, speech difficulty, numbness/pain in the neck, arms and legs, loss of balance, drooping eyelids, seizures, confusion and trouble with awareness, light sensitivity and dilated pupils, drowsiness.
Most Common Types Of Aneurysms
Aneurysms may develop in any part of the body but they’re most commonly located in the brain, spleen, abdomen/intestine, legs and spleen. The most common types of aneurysms are classified as:
● Aortic aneurysms: Located in the largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta that traverses from the heart down to the legs. This is a common location for aneurysms and they can occur in the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm) or abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm).
● Cerebral aneurysms: Located in the blood vessels supplying nutrients to the brain, they may not cause any symptoms unless they rupture or leak, causing bleeding in the brain.
● Peripheral aneurysms: Located in the knees, spleen, thighs, legs, groin, intestines, neck or kidneys, these may not pose as a rupture risk.
● Cirsoid aneurysms: Located usually in the head and neck, these are a result of congenital defects. Here blood vessels get abnormally dilated and lead to abnormal connections between veins and arteries.
Early Diagnosis And Prevention
The location of the symptoms provides information about the aneurysm. Diagnostic tests used include:
● CT/MRI Scan: Helps to detect brain abnormalities
● Angiogram: Checks for abnormalities/blocks in blood-vessels
● Lumbar puncture: Checks for the presence of blood in the cerebrospinal fluid
● Vascular ultrasound: Detects blocks and abnormalities in blood vessels
● ECG/EEG: Detects irregularities in brain/heart activity
● Stress Test: Checks circulatory system function
● Chest X-ray: Detects abnormalities in blood-vessel/organs
Aneurysms can be prevented by:
● Leading a healthy life
● Quitting smoking/alcohol/drug abuse
● Getting regular health check-ups
● Based on the type/location, doctors can recommend the right treatment. The health/age of the patient are other factors. Unruptured aneurysms can be monitored and managed.
● Medication is prescribed for hypertension and cholesterol
● Endovascular stent-graft surgery is used for weak blood vessels in the chest and abdomen
● Coiling and clipping surgery for brain aneurysms. However, this carries several serious risks and your doctor can give you the right advice and assistance.