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Aortic Aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in your aorta, the major blood vessel that feeds blood to your body. The aorta, about the thickness of a garden hose, runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. Because the aorta is the body's main supplier of blood, a ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. Most small and slow-growing aortic aneurysms don't rupture, but large, fast-growing aortic aneurysms may.

What is the most common cause of aortic aneurysms?

The most common cause of aortic aneurysms is "hardening of the arteries" called arteriosclerosis. At least 80% of aortic aneurysms are from arteriosclerosis. The arteriosclerosis can weaken your aortic wall, which can then become expanded with the pressure of the blood being pumped through your aorta. Other causes of aortic aneurysms include genetic heredity, previous trauma to the aorta, arteritis and mycotic infection.
What are the signs and symptoms of an aortic aneurysm?

Before an aneurysm bursts, there may be no signs or symptoms. However, once it does occur, symptoms may include:

  • Sudden, intense pain in the back or abdomen
  • Throbbing lump-like mass or sensation in the abdomen
  • Abdominal rigidity
  • Symptoms of shock, including trembling, dizziness, sweating, fainting and elevated heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Pale skin
  • Dry mouth and great thirst