Simply speaking, an aneurysm is a medical condition distinguished by an anomalous enlargement or inflation of a segment of a blood vessel. This is known to be a permanent condition wherein the arterial wall bloats owing to the debility in its makeup and the ensuing failure to endure the pressure of regular blood flow circulating at significantly high paces.
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Deterioration of the arterial walls caused due to some ailment may also result in aneurysm. In addition, the medical condition may also be a result of a wound or may be owing to the existence of an inherited flaw in the arterial system. In brief, the walls of the arteries are thick so that they are able to endure normal blood pressure.
Nevertheless, certain ailments, genetic conditions as well as trauma may cause damage or may injure artery walls. Hence, the pressure of blood pushing against the enfeebled or damaged walls may result in an aneurysm. However, the fact remains that scientists are yet to ascertain the exact cause behind aneurysm.
In the absence of any noticeable or visible physical symptoms of the condition in the patient, it is possible that aneurysm may remain undetected for several years. Unfortunately, aneurysm or its symptoms cannot be reversed and the only treatment available for this medical condition till date is trying to thwart the condition from deteriorating further. Hence, when a person develops aneurysm, the best thing to do is to deal with in some manner or the other.
The worst thing about this condition is that an aneurysm may often enlarge or inflate to such an extent that it may rupture or even split up in one or more stratum of the artery wall. Such type of dissection may result in bleeding inside as well as along the layers of the artery walls and may at times prove to be fatal.
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It may be noted that majority of aneurysm incidents takes place in the segment of aorta, the main artery transporting blood from the heart to the remaining parts of the body, especially the chest and abdomen. Aneurysm that occurs in the chest is known as thoracic aortic aneurysm, while when the condition occurs in the abdomen, it is known as abdominal aortic aneurysm.
In addition to the aorta, an aneurysm may also occur in the secondary vessels, but they are not very common. However, aneurysm in the peripheral blood vessels is more common among the elderly people, particularly in the popliteal (the part of the leg behind the knees) arteries.
One of the symptoms of an arterial aneurysm is a throbbing bulge that generates a whooshing murmur during auscultation - listening for the sounds produced by the body, using a stethoscope. As mentioned earlier, an aneurysm may develop to such an extent that it may eventually burst or rupture resulting in bleeding or formation of thrombi (a fibrinous clot obstructs a blood vessel) inside the enlarged pocket and cause emboli (suspended materials transported by the blood that may affect the circulation in the vessels) obstructing secondary blood vessels.
It is frightening to know that approximately 14,000 Americans succumb to aortic aneurysms every year and majority of the deaths are caused due to rupture or dissection of an aneurysm.
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In many cases when an aneurysm is detected in the early stage of development, it is possible to prevent it from bursting or dissection by using certain medications. Despite this, it needs to be mentioned that in many cases an aneurysm may develop and enlarge even before displaying any visible symptoms of the condition.
Often the symptoms of aneurysm become apparent several years after a person has actually developed the condition. Hence, people who face the risk of developing aneurysm need to go for early and regular screening as this would help them to avoid the condition. If aneurysm is diagnosed early enough, it can also be treated with medications as well as surgery.
People who have developed aneurysm may be given medications to bring down their blood pressure, loosen up their blood vessels as well as diminish the risks of having a rupture or dissection. It is significant to note that even outsized aortic aneurysms may usually be mended by undergoing surgery. During the surgical process, the debilitated or injured parts of the aorta are either replaced or strengthened.
Thus far, we have been discussing about aneurysm in the aorta, the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body, owing to an anomalous and permanent inflation or ballooning of the weak blood vessels owing to a number of reasons. Such conditions may occur even in the brain.
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When this condition or aneurysm comes about in the brain, it is known as cerebral aneurysm. Cerebral aneurysm is caused due to the presence of an enfeebled area in the wall of the arteries in the brain. This unusual condition may occur in a person by inheritance or it may develop later in his or her life, for instance, when a blood vessel is damaged. People inheriting an aneurysm endure the condition right from their birth.
Aneurysms may develop in several different forms. For instance, the size of a type of an aneurysm called berry aneurysm may differ from a few millimeters to more than a centimeter. At the same time, a condition known as the giant berry aneurysm may develop to more than two centimeters. In fact, the berry aneurysm and giant berry aneurysm are the two most common types of the condition found in adults.
In the instance of congenital aneurysm (aneurysm inherited by birth), multiple berry aneurysms are more common compared to other types of this abnormal medical condition.
There are a number of additional types of cerebral aneurysm that include enlargement of the blood vessel. Alternately, they may also look like a part of the blood vessel ballooning out. These types of aneurysms may develop in any blood vessel that transports blood to the brain. According to some researches, cerebral aneurysm may be caused by shock or strain and infection, which have the potential to damage the walls of the vessels supplying blood to the brain.
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It has been found that approximately five per cent of the entire human population endures some or the other type of cerebral aneurysm. These conditions are generally attributed to a family history of cerebral aneurysms as well as specific medical disorders like polycystic kidney disease (a hereditary ailment distinguished by gradually enlarging two-sided cysts of the kidney that result in diminished renal functioning) and coarctation of the aorta (a birth defect wherein a part of the aorta is narrow).
Unfortunately, like in other cases of aneurysm, cerebral aneurysm too does not display any visible symptoms of the condition, till the enlarged part of the blood vessels actually burst resulting in bleeding inside the brain. Generally, an aneurysm is detected when a person undergoes a CT scan or MRI as a diagnosis procedure for some other ailment or reason.
Symptoms of aneurysm can only be perceived when the inflated blood vessels push out on the adjoining structures inside the brain. However, the symptoms are conditional on the precise structure near the brain to which aneurysm pushes on. In such cases, some of the symptoms of cerebral aneurysm may include:
On the other hand, an abrupt and excruciating headache, which may be described as 'the worst-ever headache in one's life, is a sign of the rupture of the aneurysm or the ballooned blood vessel. There are a number of other symptoms of rupture of an aneurysm and these may include:
People who have a history of headaches, for instance tension headaches or migraines, may endure a unique headache that is entirely different from the normal pattern of headaches suffered by them. In fact, when ever you experience any headache that is different in nature from the usual headaches you endure, you should deed it to be a suspected case of aneurysm rupture or dissection.
In fact, when some people experience the worst ever headache of their life, it may also be a symptom of a stroke. It may be noted that as much as 50 per cent of the patients who endure ruptured aneurysm usually experience a warning or prodromal headache a number of days or sometimes even weeks before an aneurysm actually ruptures.
On an average, most people experience this warning headache around two weeks before an aneurysm ruptures. Many consider this warning headache to be a result of a trivial leakage of blood before the aneurysm rupture and are usually known as a 'sentinel headache'.
Such warning or prodromal headaches may often be quickly followed by a change in the mental condition of the patient. Precisely speaking, the mental alterations may vary from simple confusion to coma. Around 25 per cent of aneurysm patients also suffer seizures when an aneurysm ruptures. There are a number of people, who endure symptoms of an expanded, unruptured aneurysm, including:
A ruptured aneurysm is actually medical emergency; hence, seek instant medical help before it proves to be fatal.
There are several tests and examinations that may confirm whether a person has actually developed an aneurysm. An examination of the eyes will reveal the pressure inside the brain has increased as well as whether there is any inflation of the optic nerve or hemorrhage into the retina of any eye. A person suspecting development of cerebral aneurysm may undertake the tests mentioned below to diagnose whether he or she is actually affected by the condition as well as ascertain the reason behind the hemorrhage inside the brain. The tests are as follows:
As discussed earlier in this article, the symptoms of cerebral aneurysm do not become visible till the time of its rupture resulting in hemorrhage.
Moreover, it is important to remember that when an aneurysm bursts or desiccates, it is a medical emergency and hence, immediate medical help should be sought. In fact, the objective of treating a cerebral aneurysm is basically to control the symptoms from deteriorating further as well as prevent any further hemorrhage or bleeding. In such cases, lowering the blood pressure of the patient with medications may be useful in diminishing the risks.
Precisely speaking, the main treatment for cerebral aneurysm is neurosurgery. During neurosurgery, the bottom of the aneurysm is blocked or isolated using clamps, sutures (a process by which the ends of a wound are sealed by stitching) and other materials that stops the flow of blood through the aneurysm.
In several instances, an alternative surgery may also be undertaken by putting unique coils or loops or stents (small, expandable tubes used for inserting in blocked blood vessels) into the aneurysm via the arteries. This method helps in the formation of a blood clot that stops more bleeding from the ruptured aneurysm. Compared to a neurosurgery, an alternative surgery is deemed to be less invasive and, in the right conditions, this approach is actually the best type of treatment for cerebral aneurysm.
In the event it is not possible to perform a surgery owing to the patients overall health conditions or due to the place or size of the aneurysm, the patient needs to be given medical aid. In this case, the medical treatment for cerebral aneurysm is comparable to the medication for subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the region between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain). Cerebral aneurysm treatment may include the following:
Having repaired the aneurysm by surgery or medical treatment, it is necessary to initiate actions to thwart stroke owing to spasms in the blood vessels. The process to prevent the occurrence of a stroke may involve administration of intravenous fluid, specific drugs and essentially allowing the patient's blood pressure to go up.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the large blood vessel supplying blood to the abdomen, pelvis as well as the legs inflates abnormally or swells like a balloon. Although scientists are yet to ascertain the precise reasons for the occurrence of abdominal aortic aneurysm, certain factors are known to be responsible for a person developing this medical condition. The risk factors in this case may include the following:
It is possible for any one, irrespective of age and gender, to develop abdominal aortic aneurysm. Nevertheless, this medical condition is more common in males above the age of 60 years having one or more of the risk factors mentioned above. It may be noted that the larger an abdominal aortic aneurysm, more are the chances of it rupturing or breaking open.
Aneurysm of any type develops gradually over a period of several years without any visible sign or symptom of the medical condition. Aneurysm only becomes apparent when it ruptures or desiccates resulting in bleeding. The symptoms may become suddenly visible in case any aneurysm enlarges rapidly, breaks open (ruptured aneurysm) resulting to leakage of blood by the side of the blood vessels - a condition called aortic dissection. The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm may include the following:
In case your doctor suspects that you have developed abdominal aortic aneurysm, the first thing he will do is to examine your abdomen. The examination will also incorporate evaluating the pulses and the sensation in the legs. If you have really developed abdominal aortic aneurysm, the doctor is likely to find any or all of the following:
It is important to know that even if you have developed an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you may not experience any problem or symptoms for a long period - often for several years. This is because aneurysm develops slowly without showing any symptom till it ruptures resulting in hemorrhage.
Hence, your doctor is likely to detect that you have developed an abdominal aortic aneurysm by performing specific tests of the abdomen, including an ultrasound test of the abdomen and/ or CT scan of the abdomen. Any of these tests may be performed when you notice any symptoms of this medical condition.
In case you are experiencing internal hemorrhage due to the development of an aortic aneurysm, you will require an open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Precisely speaking, you will be required to undergo an abdominal surgery to treat the condition.
On the other hand, in the instance of the abdominal aortic aneurysm being small in size without any visible symptom or sign of the malady that you can experience, you and your doctor will need to decide on any of the following:
Generally, doctors recommend surgery for patients enduring abdominal aortic aneurysm larger than 2 inches (5.0 cm) across and in cases where the aneurysm is found to be developing very fast. The objective of performing a surgery is to prevent the complications from developing further or allowing the condition of the patient to deteriorate more.
Thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs when a small segment of the wall of the aorta, the largest artery in the body, bulges like a balloon. Precisely speaking, a thoracic aneurysm is a widened or ballooned area in the aorta in the thoracic or chest.
In fact, an aneurysm may be defined as a deflation or ballooning of any part of an artery, vein or heart locally where the wall of the vessel or heart has been weakened owing to some reason. As the wall in that specific part is weakened, it bulges out and may even rupture unable to withstand the pressure of the blood flow. The term 'aneurysm' has been derived from the Greek work 'aneurysma' denoting 'a widening' or deflation.
Any type of aneurysm is a potentially severe health condition since it can rupture or desiccate resulting in internal hemorrhage. In case the condition is not treated timely, it may even prove to be fatal. The risk for rupture enhances with the size of the aneurysm. The larger the aneurysm, the greater are the risks of its rupture or breaking open. Generally, any thoracic aortic aneurysm that is larger than 2.3 inches across ought to be considered for treatment.
As mentioned earlier, a thoracic aortic aneurysm is basically a swelling of a weakened area in the location of the aorta situated in the region of the chest. The regular diameter of the aorta is approximately an inch or even smaller, but an aneurysm has the aptitude to develop over three inches across.
All types of aneurysms are a major potential threat for our health, as they can rupture causing internal hemorrhage. In fact, the larger the size of an aneurysm, the greater is the risk of its rupturing. When any such aneurysm bursts, it results in bleeding and if not treated instantly may even cause death. It is essential to seek immediate medical help in such cases and the patient needs to be attended by an expert team of doctors. Comparatively smaller aneurysms are not as hazardous unless they start to grow rapidly.
Usually, a thoracic aortic aneurysm is found occurring in the downward in the thoracic aorta. However, it is possible for thoracic aneurysm also to develop in the upper region of the aorta, also known as the aortic arch.
Atherosclerosis or the stiffening of the arteries as well as other diseases that result in the degeneration of the aorta are said to be the most widespread causes for development of thoracic aortic aneurysms.
The risk factors that cause atherosclerosis are also responsible for thoracic aortic aneurysms. These risk factors include high blood pressure or hypertension, smoking and poor diet. Besides, there are other risk factors for developing thoracic aortic aneurysm and some of them are mentioned below:
Like in the case of abdominal aortic aneurysm, men above the age of 60 years are at greater risk of developing thoracic aortic aneurysm. In addition, relatives of patients suffering from thoracic aneurysm also face enhanced risks of developing this grave medical condition.
In general, most people who develop thoracic aortic aneurysm neither experience any symptoms nor any problems due to the malady until the aneurysms burst causing internal bleeding. However, the symptoms of thoracic aneurysm often depend on its size and location and these symptoms may include the following:
When the aneurysm develops to a significantly large size, it may have an effect on other organs as well as the nerves. In the event of the condition affecting the heart, a large aneurysm may result in congestive heart failure.
While atherosclerosis or the stiffening of the arteries is considered to be the most widespread reason behind the development of thoracic aortic aneurysm, the malady is also attributed to a number of other causes (see above).
It is important to note that majority of the people who have developed thoracic aortic aneurysm do not have any symptoms of the malady till it has ruptured and begins to bleed internally or enlarge to dangerous size. If you experience any unusual chest pain or pain in the back it may often be considered to be an abrupt enlargement or widening and/ or blood leakage of the aneurysm.
The physical examinations involved in diagnosing thoracic aortic aneurysm are usually routine or ordinary. Majority of the cases of non-leaking thoracic aortic aneurysm are usually diagnosed by performing examinations, such as X-ray or chest CT scans.
As development of thoracic aortic aneurysm does not reveal any signs or symptoms till they rupture causing internal hemorrhage, it is difficult to suspect the malady. Hence, if a person has developed thoracic aortic aneurysm, it is revealed during these tests conducted for other medical conditions or reasons. A CT scan of the chest or a chest X-ray reveals if the aorta in the patient is widened. In addition, a chest CT scan also displays the size of the aorta and the precise area in the body where the aneurysm has developed.
Furthermore, when an aortogram is performed, it not only identifies the aneurysm, but also all the branches of the aorta that may have been affected by the malady. It may be mentioned here that an aortogram is a specific set of X-ray images developed by injecting a dye into the aorta.
While there is no cure for aneurysm yet, the malady can be prevented from worsening or becoming more critical by using medications or undergoing surgery. Such treatment of aneurysm depends solely on the part of the body where it has developed.
Doctors usually recommend surgery to replace the affected portion of the aorta if an aneurysm has developed in the upper region of the aorta, also known as the aortic arch. This is all the more pertinent if the size of the aneurysm is more that 5-6 centimeters across. In such cases, a fabric substitute is used to replace the affected part of the aorta by means of surgery.
The surgery involved in replacing the part of the aorta affected by aneurysm is a major operation and involves the use of a heart-lung machine. A specific procedure known as the 'circulatory arrest' may be essential if the aortic arch is involved in the surgery. While the surgery is performed by an expert team of medical professionals, the blood circulation is stopped and the patient is put on an artificial life support system.
On the other hand, patients who have developed aneurysm in the downward thoracic aorta have two treatment options. In the event of the thoracic aneurysm being bigger than 6 cm, a major surgery is performed to replace the affected portion of the aorta with a substitute made of special fabric. Another option is using endovascular stents. This alternative approach is less invasive wherein a minute tube made of metal or plastic is used to keep an artery to remain open. In fact, it is possible to place stents inside the body even without cutting the chest open.
As an alternative to a surgery requiring opening the chest, this method inserts two catheters (minute hollow tubes) in the groin region. Subsequently, the stent is passed by means of the catheter into the area where the aneurysm has developed. However, it is important to note that every patient who has developed thoracic aneurysm in the downward aorta is not fit or eligible for this procedure - called stenting.
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In addition to taking medicines and opting for a surgery, there are a few important things that you may do to prevent as well as treat aneurysm. The best thing you may do is to reduce the intake of saturated fats like those present in red meats and dairy products, counting cream and butter, in your regular diet.
Simultaneously, your diet needs to include plenty of oily fish, for instance sardines, the salmon and the herring. The brewer's yeast is a very good dietary supplement in such cases and you may enrich your diet by sprinkling some of it on your food. In addition, you need to reduce the amount of your daily consumption of salt or, better avoid it completely.
Moreover, you need to involve yourself in regular, but moderate work outs like walking or swimming. This is a very important if you really want to avoid or treat any form of aneurysm. In any case, people who are at risk of developing aneurysm or have already developed the malady should give priority to this.
However, here is a word of caution. Discontinue all physical exercises the moment you experience any pain when ever you exert yourself physically. And in any case, you should avoid going out in a cold weather as this will help you to avoid putting stress on your heart.