Aneurism: What You Need To Know

Aneurism: What is It?

Generally speaking an aneurism (or aneurysm) is a bulge in a weakened portion of a blood vessel wall much like the bulge that results from over-inflating an inner tube. If left untreated aneurisms may burst – or rupture – causing minimal or massive internal bleeding.

Depending on where the aneurism is, rupture can cause a number of serious conditions. For example, rupture of an aneurism in the brain - brain aneurism - may cause a stroke. If an aneurism ruptures in the abdomen - abdominal aortic aneurism – it may cause shock due to massive blood loss. Such events are extremely painful and deadly.

If an aneurism bursts in the chest there is only about a 20% chance of survival even if emergency medical treatment is administered immediately. Because of this, aneurisms are to be treated with the utmost seriousness. Medical neglect of an aneurism is not an option. Prevention is the first step. But once an aneurism is detected place yourself obediently under a doctor’s care.

Though there are a number of different types of aneurisms, they can basically be divided into two categories: brain aneurisms and aortic aneurisms. Aortic aneurisms can further be subdivided into thoracic aortic aneurisms and abdominal aortic aneurisms.

All aneurisms share some things in common. However, each type also has its own distinctive characteristics. Therefore it seems best to discuss aneurisms under three main headings. These are…

  • brain aneurism
  • thoracic aortic aneurism
  • abdominal aortic aneurism

By the way… Do you have your own story to tell about aneurisms or any heart health issue? Have you learned something in your reading that you would like to share? If so you can have your own webpage right here on this site.

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What Is A Brain Aneurism?

A brain aneurism – cerebral aneurism – is a bulge in an artery located in or near the brain. Though there are a number of likely causes, the cause is not always known. However, generally speaking, a brain aneurism is often the result of damage done to an artery. This damage may result from…

  • Genetic factors
  • Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Injury
  • Infections
  • Bad lifestyle habits

It is also a fact that brain aneurisms often develop without any recognizable symptoms. In practical terms what does this mean?

It means that you cannot self-diagnose a cerebral aneurism.

For example, headaches may accompany an aneurism. But this is not always the case. And, of course, many other conditions can cause chronic headaches.

Because of this, many people have developing aneurisms and don’t even know it. Is this a problem? Yes.

As mentioned above, aneurism rupture can cause a number of serious results. In minor cases a leaking brain aneurism might actually heal itself. That is, the bleeding stops without any medical intervention. The aneurism does not go away, however.

In more serious cases brain damage or death may result.

A common occurrence lies between these two extremes. Often a ruptured cerebral aneurism floods one or more parts of the brain with blood. This in turn causes increased pressure on brain tissues resulting in tissue deterioration.

For more information on some of the causes, development and results of a brain aneurism please click here.

It is true that aneurisms can develop without symptoms. However, as an aneurism grows it is more likely to produce warning signs. Some of the signs might indicate that the aneurism has grown to a dangerous size. Other symptoms might indicate that the aneurism has already ruptured.

A large study was undertaken in an attempt to predict patient survival based on the type and severity of symptoms that occur in the event of a ruptured brain aneurism. That study resulted in what is known as the Hunt-Hess Scale.

To learn more about brain aneurism symptoms and the Hunt-Hess Scale please click here.

As mention earlier, symptoms do not always accompany a brain aneurism. By the time symptoms occur the aneurism is often rather large or even ruptured.

So if brain aneurism symptoms are not reliable how can I know if I have an aneurism?

Unfortunately the only reliable way to diagnose a brain aneurism is to see your doctor and undergo one or more tests. There are several diagnostic tests available. Depending on your situation your doctor might order one or more of these.

Some of these tests are…

  • X-ray angiography
  • Computed axial tomography
  • Ultrasound
  • Lumbar puncture
  • MRI

To see more detail on aneurism diagnostic tools please use this link.

What can be done to prevent an aneurism?

Aneurisms can develop because of certain lifestyle choices we make. Therefore there are some things we can do to lower our risk. Four of them are particularly important. These are…

Even if an aneurism already exists these four measures can help restrict the rate of aneurism growth and reduce the risk of rupture. Can these steps cure an aneurism? No!

If a brain aneurism already exists and is of a sufficient size to warrant concern then you must see your doctor.

What can a doctor do? Unfortunately surgery is the only viable option for an aneurism that poses a serious health risk. To date there is no drug that can cure an aneurism. Essentially there are a couple of surgical options. These are…

  • Surgical clipping
  • Endovascular coiling

The first of these two methods is very invasive requiring accessing the aneurism through an opening in the skull. Endovascular coiling is not nearly as invasive but cannot be performed on all types of aneurisms.

For more information on treatments for brain aneurisms please use this link.

What Is A Thoracic Aortic Aneurism?

An aortic aneurism is a swelling that occurs on a weakened portion of the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It originates at the left ventricle of the heart from which point it ascends for a short distance before descending through the chest and abdomen. It ends in the abdomen by dividing into two arteries called the common iliac arteries that go to the legs.

An aneurism which occurs on any portion of the aorta except that which passes through the abdomen is called a thoracic aortic aneurism.

The part of the aorta which passes through the chest is divided into three parts…

  • Ascending aorta
  • Aortic arch
  • Descending thoracic aorta

Aneurisms occurring on any of these three sections have corresponding names such as...

  • Ascending aortic aneurism
  • Aortic arch aneurism
  • Descending thoracic aneurism

Like brain aneurisms, thoracic aortic aneurisms can develop to a dangerous size without producing any symptoms. However in the case of rupture the symptoms can be quite intense.

Unfortunately, by the time a thoracic aortic aneurism ruptures the patient is often in grave danger from massive blood loss. Approximately half of the patients experiencing a rupture or dissection die before reaching the hospital. This is especially true for aneurisms located near the heart.

For more information on the types of thoracic aortic aneurisms and the risks associated with them please click here.

Patients who have aneurisms treated surgically prior to rupture have a very high survival rate. The key, then, is to diagnose the existence and condition of an aneurism before it ruptures.

We will come back to this in a moment. First it is well for us to consider some of the things that can lead to the development and rupture of a thoracic aortic aneurism.

There are a number of causes which can be said to influence the development and rupture of a thoracic aortic aneurism. Some of them can be classified as diseases or genetic conditions. A few examples would include…

  • Idiopathic Cystic Medial Degeneration
  • Marfan Syndrome
  • Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Unfortunately these conditions are not greatly influenced by life-style choices. The silver lining is that these conditions are relatively rare.

Other unknown genetic conditions can also influence the development of aneurisms. If you have a close relative who has been inflicted with an aneurism you are at higher risk for developing one yourself. Make sure your doctor knows of this situation.

There are a number of more common factors that can promote aneurism development. Many of these are influenced by the choices we make. Of course the good news here is that we can make choices to lessen our risk of having an aneurism. Three prominent aneurism causes are…

Smoking could be considered a fourth factor since it promotes these other three.

For more information on the causes of thoracic aortic aneurisms please click here

But How Can I Know If I Have a Thoracic Aortic Aneurism?

Though symptoms sometimes are present they are not reliable as a diagnostic tool. If you suspect that you might have an aneurism your doctor will have to run some tests. Among the possible tests you might undergo are…

  • plain radiography
  • ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • angiography

You can learn more about these diagnostic tests by using this link.

The important thing for us to know is that we cannot self-diagnose. Neither can your doctor make a sound diagnosis without applying at least one of these tests.

Once a thoracic aortic aneurism is detected, then what? Depending on the size of the aneurism it may be monitored for a while. Your doctor will most likely want to strictly control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Anything else that might promote atherosclerosis – like smoking – will be discouraged.

Currently there is no non-surgical cure for thoracic aortic aneurisms. That is one reason it is so important to do everything we can to reduce the likelihood of promoting aneurism growth and rupture.

When an aneurism grows to a certain point surgery become necessary. The primary surgical options are…

  • percutaneous stenting
  • endovascular coiling

Read more about thoracic aortic aneurism treatments by using this link.

What Is An Abdominal Aortic Aneurism?

An aneurism located on the part of the aorta that passes through the abdomen is an abdominal aortic aneurism (AAA). It is the most common type of aneurism and is responsible for about 15,000 deaths in the US each year.

Though some abdominal aortic aneurisms do produce symptoms, many do not. As with other types of aneurisms, by the time symptoms are present the patient is often in a critical situation.

Click here to learn more about the risks and symptoms associated with AAA.

The cause of an abdominal aortic aneurism is not always known. Three categories of aneurism causes are…

  • genetically inherited diseases
  • enzyme destruction
  • lifestyle influenced conditions

The first two types are difficult to control. They might include…

  • Marfan Syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Congenital Defects
  • Enzymes

The third category - lifestyle influenced conditions – are perhaps more common and are more directly within our control. These include…

Please use this link to read more about the things that can cause AAA development.

Atherosclerosis: The Leading Cause of Aneurisms. Read More!

It is a frightening fact that a high percentage of people who experience a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism do so without even knowing they had an aneurism. It is obvious from this fact that professional diagnosis is of the utmost importance.

As is the case with thoracic aortic aneurisms, AAA can be diagnosed using one or more of the following tests:

  • plain radiography
  • ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • angiography

This link provides more detailed information on these diagnostic tests.

Once discovered an AAA can be treated in much the same way as a thoracic aneurism. The critical size of the aneurism varies but the treatments are similar.

You can see details on AAA treatments using this link.

Click here to read about non-invasive robotic heart surgery

As with other aneurisms, an AAA can only be cured surgically. There is no drug that will do the trick.

Any aneurism is serious business. It is therefore important for us to do our part in minimizing the risks. Some of the most common aneurism influences are affected by what we do.

To repeat the important issues… it is essential that we…

Each of these takes some work. We are not helpless in these matters. We do, however, need to take some responsibility for our own optimal heart health.

Aneurisms and Lifestyle

You may have noticed that there are certain lifestyle influences that can lead to the development, growth or rupture of an aneurism no matter what the type. These are…

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis buildup

Smoking is a no-brainer. We all know it is not a healthy habit. Smoking not only has implications for lung disease it can also lead to damaged arteries. Damaged arteries, in turn, are an important factor in aneurism development. If you are a smoker please make every effort to quit.

Imbalanced cholesterol and atherosclerosis buildup are related conditions which are very common in the development of aneurisms.

As the arteries become 'hardened' they also become less flexible like an old inner-tube. They cannot stretch as well as they once could. Atherosclerosis also causes a weakening of the artery walls. The combination of less flexible arteries - along with weak spots in the artery wall - is an opportunity for a bulge to form.

All of this is very important and worthy of further discussion. But at present we should look at high blood pressure more closely. Let’s return to the old inner-tube illustration.

As the walls of the inner-tube become weakened there is potential for bulging and rupture. But this potential only becomes realized as we put air into the inner-tube. The higher the pressure becomes the more likelihood there is for the inner-tube to rupture.

The same is true in relation to aneurisms. Weakened arteries bulge and potentially rupture under the influence of blood pressure. Long-term hypertension can have a number of serious side-effects, many of them deadly. One of these side-effects is, of course, the growth and rupture of an aneurism.

It is no secret that high blood pressure is a serious and wide spread condition. That is why so many people are on blood pressure lowering medications. There are many thousands of people who should be on such medications but do not know they have a problem. This is one reason high blood pressure is known as the silent killer.

Peptides and Hypertension

Though there are many different medications available, ACE inhibitors are becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of hypertension. Peptides – naturally occurring compounds – are also increasingly being used to lower blood pressure.

There are a number of studies demonstrating that fish sourced peptides possess the same ACE inhibiting characteristics as ACE inhibiting drugs without the potential side-effects. Consequently many people are choosing this natural alternative to drug therapy. If you would like to learn more about ACE inhibiting drugs and peptides please use the link below.

Peptides, ACE inhibitors and high blood pressure

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