Aneurysms are very scary! When they rupture, they can have serious consequences and even lead to death. Here are 6 things to know about them.
What is it?
An aneurysm is a localized swelling in the wall of an artery. It is characterized by a thickening of the weakened part of the blood vessel. Over time, as the vessel is subjected to blood pressure, the aneurysm gets bigger, bulges like a balloon and weakens the arterial wall. The danger with an aneurysm is that it can rupture and cause abundant bleeding, which can be fatal.
What can be the causes?
We don’t know exactly why some people develop aneurysms and others don’t. That being said, the most frequent cause of aneurysm is atherosclerosis, a disease in which deposits of fat build up inside the arteries, making them more fragile. Therefore, all the risk factors associated with atherosclerosis (smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, etc.) increase the risks of aneurysms. It can also be a genetic condition. In fact, serious aneurysms are most likely to be caused by a combination of genetics and poor cardiovascular health, and even people who suffer from serious atherosclerosis will not develop aneurysms if they aren’t genetically predisposed. Other causes (traumas, infections, etc.) are fairly rare.
Are there different types of aneurysm?
Yes, aneurysms can occur in different parts of the body. The most common ones appear in the aorta, the largest artery in the human body that carries blood to the heart and the rest of the body. Aneurysms occur more frequently in the abdominal aorta. Certain aneurysms can also occur in the cerebral arteries.
What are the complications?
When an aneurysm ruptures, it causes significant bleeding that can become dangerous, even deadly. For example, if a rupture occurs in the aorta, it will cause heavy bleeding that will lead to shock and often a quick death. In fact, a ruptured aneurysm in the abdominal aorta is fatal in 80% to 90% of cases. When an aneurysm ruptures in the brain, it causes a stroke. Three-quarters of people who survive a stroke will suffer from paralysis, speech, vision and memory problems. In basically all cases, a ruptured aneurysm is considered a medical emergency of the highest order because, even if it is not fatal, it can cause serious irreparable damage.
What are the symptoms?
Most often, aneurysms produce no symptoms. They are usually discovered by accident during routine medical examinations of the abdomen, an ultrasound or some other x-ray. That being said, brain aneurysms can sometimes cause symptoms like double vision, face pain or headaches, while aortic aneurysms may cause chest, abdominal or back pain.
Can aneurysms be treated?
Once an aneurysm is diagnosed, two options are available depending on how serious the problem is. The first is to do nothing and carefully monitor its development; the second is to repair the aneurysm through surgery. Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you wish to know more about aneurysms.