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Aortic Aneurysm (cont.)

What are the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm?

Aneurysms usually do not cause any symptoms until they become very large or rupture. Aneurysms in the abdominal aorta are often found coincidentally when the individual undergoes a medical test or procedure for some other reason.

Chest pain and back pain are the two most common symptoms of large aneurysms.

  • Almost any unusual sensation or feeling in the upper chest or back, however, may be due to an aneurysm of the aorta.
  • Chest pain is usually the first sign of aortic dissection. Many people describe a tearing or ripping pain in the chest when the aorta enlarges to a critical size and ruptures/dissects. Besides pain, increased sweating, a fast heart rate, rapid breathing, dizziness, and shock may occur.

Some people describe the following symptoms of an aortic aneurysm:

  • A pulsating bulge or a strong pulse in the abdomen
  • Feeling of fullness after minimal food intake
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Where the aorta widens into a bulge, blood clots (thrombi) are more likely to form. If a piece of a blood clot breaks off, it travels through the circulatory system until it lodges somewhere. The clot can cut off blood flow to any area of the body. Symptoms depend on which part of the body is deprived of blood.

  • In the most serious cases, the broken off fragments can cause stroke or heart attack. The fragments can also cause one or more vital body organs, such as the lungs, liver, or kidneys, to stop functioning properly.
  • In less serious cases, it might cause numbness, weakness, tingling, pallor, or coldness in an arm or leg, loss of sensation, light-headedness, or localized pain.

Any of these symptoms can also occur with dissection of the aorta. The pain in the chest or pain may be particularly severe, and may mimic a heart attack.

In ruptured aneurysm or dissection, internal bleeding will occur. If a person has any of these symptoms along with the other symptoms of aortic aneurysm, they could be in danger and must seek emergency medical care right away. Other symptoms include the following:

These symptoms are not unique to people that have aortic aneurysms but they do indicate the person is likely experiencing a medical emergency that could include an aortic aneurysm. A major reason for most of the above symptoms is loss of blood from the leaking aneurysm. If the bleeding is uncontrolled, the person's blood pressure will drop dangerously low. Organs will not receive enough blood to function normally. This is called circulatory collapse, or just "shock."

  • This is a life-threatening condition.
  • People lose consciousness if their brain does not receive enough blood; they then may be at risk of death if the bleeding continues.
  • Other organs may start to fail.
  • The heart can stop beating. This is called cardiac arrest and is often fatal.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016
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