4 Things You Need To Know About Aortic Aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is a disorder of the aorta, a major artery that runs along your spine. In people with this condition, the walls of the aorta stretch out and create a bulge. These stretched walls become weak, and if they're stretched too far, can even break, which is often fatal. Here's what you need to know about this scary condition. 

How do you know you have an aortic aneurysm?

If you're like most people, you won't develop any symptoms. Symptoms usually only occur when the aneurysm becomes large enough to put pressure on your organs. Some people will feel an aching pain or a pulsating sensation inside their abdomen, but not everyone experiences this. If your aneurysm bursts, you will feel severe pain, and will soon go into shock. 

Doctors don't usually screen for aortic aneurysms, so you could have one right now without even knowing it. These aneurysms are often discovered accidentally during ultrasounds, x-rays, or other routine tests for unrelated conditions. 

What causes an aortic aneurysm?

Lots of other health conditions can lead to an aortic aneurysm. Hardened arteries are the most common cause, but high blood pressure can also put stress on your aorta and cause it to bulge. Injuries to your chest (for example, in a bad car accident) can also cause this condition. 

Some people have a higher risk than others. Men are more likely to suffer from an aortic aneurysm than women, as are people with a family history of the condition. If you're diabetic or a smoker, you're also at an increased risk. 

How common is this condition?

Aortic aneurysms are very rare, though your risk of getting one increases as you age. If you are between 60 and 65 years old, your risk is about 0.1%, which is still very low. Once you reach 65, aortic aneurysms become more common. About 6% of women and 13% of men in this age group will develop an aneurysm. That may sound like a lot of people, but about 90% of these aneurysms are small and unlikely to burst.

What is your prognosis?

If your aneurysm is discovered before it bursts, your chances of survival are very good. The aorta can be surgically repaired, which has a success rate of about 95%. If your aneurysm bursts, the opposite is true. Only 1 out of 3 people with a ruptured aneurysm will make it to the hospital, and 20% of them will die before they can be operated on. 

An aortic aneurysm is a scary condition, but fortunately, it's also very rare. If you have risk factors for this condition, visit a cardiology clinic and ask your doctor about getting screened.