The signs and symptoms of an aortic aneurysm depend on the type and location of the aneurysm. Signs and symptoms also depend on whether the aneurysm has ruptured (burst) or is affecting other parts of the body.
Aneurysms can develop and grow for years without causing any signs or symptoms. They often don't cause signs or symptoms until they rupture, grow large enough to press on nearby body parts, or block blood flow.
Most abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) develop slowly over years. They often don't cause signs or symptoms unless they rupture. If you have an AAA, your doctor may feel a throbbing mass while checking your abdomen.
When symptoms are present, they can include:
If an AAA ruptures, symptoms may include sudden, severe pain in your lower abdomen and back; nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting; constipation and problems with urination; clammy, sweaty skin; light-headedness; and a rapid heart rate when standing up.
Internal bleeding from a ruptured AAA can send you into shock. Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood pressure drops so low that the brain, kidneys, and other vital organs can't get enough blood to work well. Shock can be fatal if it’s not treated right away.
A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) may not cause symptoms until it dissects or grows large. If you have symptoms, they may include:
A dissection is a split in one or more layers of the artery wall. The split causes bleeding into and along the layers of the artery wall.
If a TAA ruptures or dissects, you may feel sudden, severe, sharp or stabbing pain starting in your upper back and moving down into your abdomen. You may have pain in your chest and arms, and you can quickly go into shock.
If you have any symptoms of TAA or aortic dissection, call 9–1–1. If left untreated, these conditions may lead to organ damage or death.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Aneurysm, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
The NHLBI supports a national registry that enrolls patients with genetic conditions related to thoracic aortic aneurysms. The data collected through the GenTAC registry will help doctors and researchers better understand how genes, thoracic aortic aneurysms, and heart disease are linked. To learn more about GenTAC, visit https://gentac.rti.org/Home.aspx.
December 9, 2013
Gary H. Gibbons
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The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.