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What are the Signs of Aneurysm?

By K. Willis
Updated May 17, 2024
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The signs of aneurysm vary widely, depending on the type, position, and size; ruptured and unruptured aneurysms also produce different symptoms. Some signs of aneurysm include pain, numbness, or movement problems. Unless an aneurysm grows particularly large or ruptures, however, there are often few if any symptoms. Signs of a ruptured aneurysm may include sudden, severe pain, and in the case of a cerebral aneurysm, seizures, slurred speech, and loss of consciousness. A ruptured aneurysm can prove fatal if left untreated.

An aneurysm is a bulge or swelling of part of an artery caused by a weakening of the walls of the vessel. Weakening may be caused by trauma, lifestyle, and environmental factors. A condition called atherosclerosis is a common cause of aneurysms, and is a condition in which the walls of the artery harden, losing some of their elasticity.

The most common types of aneurysms are aortic aneurysms, which occur in the largest artery in the human body. Aneurysms which occur in the arteries of the brain are called cerebral aneurysms. Peripheral aneurysms are far less common than aortic or cerebral aneurysms, and can occur in the popliteal artery, which runs down the back of the thigh; in the femoral artery, which is the major artery in the thigh; or in the carotid arteries, which are situated on either side of the neck.

Aortic aneurysms that occur within the chest cavity are called thoracic aortic aneurysms. Those that occur below the thoracic cavity are known as an abdominal aortic aneurysms. Signs of aneurysm in the aorta which is not ruptured are very few, but can include chronic, diffuse back and abdominal pain. This is long-lasting, wide-spread, non-specific pain. A vibrating sensation may occur in the abdomen, often around the navel.

When ruptured, the symptoms and signs of aneurysm in the aorta include the onset of sudden, severe pain in the chest, back or abdomen, dizziness and profuse sweating. Tachycardia is often present, which is a rapid heartbeat, usually in excess of 100 beats per minute. Loss of consciousness and shortness of breath also commonly occur.

Unruptured cerebral aneurysms may cause pain on one side of the face, especially around the eye. A patient may also experience a lack of movement in one eye, and can experience abnormalities in his or her field of vision, such as a sudden blind-spot, or visual disturbances such as blurred areas or "dancing" specks. Signs of aneurysm in the brain also include numbness or paralysis of facial muscles and seizures. Memory loss, confusion, and dizziness are also common symptoms. Often, people suffering from a cerebral aneurysm will experience a severe headache up two two weeks prior to rupture.

Approximately 25% of people with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm will experience seizures, although the onset of a rupture most commonly begins with an extremely severe headache. Other symptoms can include vomiting, light sensitivity, and stiff neck. Slurred speech and blurred vision can occur, as can double vision, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

Peripheral aneurysms are less likely to rupture than other types, but are more likely to form blood clots. If a clot breaks away from the aneurysm site, it can block the flow of blood through the artery. Peripheral aneurysms can cause moderate to severe pain if they grow large and press against a nerve, and can also cause numbness, loss of sensation, and swelling.

An aneurysm of any type is an extremely serious condition. When there are signs of aneurysm present, the person experiencing them should see a doctor so diagnostic tests can be performed. Aneurysms can usually be diagnosed using a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or an abdominal ultrasound. A ruptured aneurysm requires immediate medical aid.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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