Healthy You - Every Day

Know How to Spot an Aneurysm Emergency

Weak spots in artery walls can be life-threatening if they burst

How to spot an aneurysm

An aneurysm occurs when a weak spot in an artery wall starts to bulge out like a balloon. Some aneurysms develop slowly, and many cause no problems. But others grow quickly or burst, causing sudden symptoms that signal a medical emergency.

Knowing how to recognize these symptoms could save your life. Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute doctors have the skill and experience to treat all types of aneurysms.

A ruptured aneurysm occurs when the bulging area in an artery wall develops a hole. This hole lets blood leak or gush into the body. Symptoms may come on abruptly and include:

  • Sudden chest, back or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you suddenly develop these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Did You Know?

An estimated 6.7 million people in the U.S. have an unruptured brain aneurysm or 1 in 50 people. The annual rate of rupture is approximately 8 – 10 per 100,000 people.

Site-specific symptoms of aneurysms

An aneurysm also may cause other symptoms depending on where it’s located in the body. For example:

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) – The aorta is the major artery carrying blood away from the heart. AAAs occur in the lower part of the aorta, below the chest in the abdomen. They frequently have no symptoms and are detected on screening ultrasound or CT scans. But a ruptured AAA is a life-threatening problem. Watch for intense pain in the lower back, abdomen or legs.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) – TAAs occur in the upper part of the aorta, in the chest. If a TAA expands rapidly or ruptures, the situation can quickly turn dire. Watch for these red flags:

  • Severe pain in the chest or upper back
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • High-pitched breathing
  • Swelling in the neck

Cerebral aneurysm – Cerebral aneurysms happen within the brain. They may press against brain tissue or a nerve, or they may rupture. As with other aneurysms, a rupture is a medical emergency. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Headache, which may be sudden and severe
  • Numbness
  • Loss of feeling in the face
  • Double vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Eye pain
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Loss of consciousness

Many aneurysms never cause these kinds of problems. But those that do can be dangerous – even deadly – so get medical help right away.

Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute

Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute

Preventing and treating heart disease

The Heart and Vascular Institute is comprised of several multidisciplinary teams working together to treat complex conditions of the heart.

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