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Types of aneurysms

Important

A ruptured (burst) aneurysm is life-threatening. It often happens suddenly and without warning. A ruptured aneurysm can cause dizziness, sweaty skin, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling faint and loss of consciousness.

If you think you or someone near you is suffering from a ruptured aneurysm, phone 111 for an ambulance immediately.

An aneurysm can happen in any of your body's arteries.

You're more likely to get an aneurysm if you have atherosclerosis. So you can reduce your risk of getting an aneurysm in the same ways you can reduce atherosclerosis, including stopping smoking.

Aneurysms can run in families. If you have a close relative with an aneurysm, talk to your GP.

These are the most common types of aneurysms.

Cerebral (brain) aneurysm

A cerebral (brain) aneurysm is when the wall of a blood vessel in your brain bulges.

If the aneurysm hasn't ruptured (burst), there are often no symptoms. If the aneurysm grows, it can cause headaches, problems with eyesight and numbness in an arm or leg.

A ruptured cerebral aneurysm causes bleeding around your brain (called a subarachnoid haemorrhage).

Symptoms may include a sudden severe headache, feeling sick and vomiting. It can also make you feel drowsy and you can become unconscious.

Aortic aneurysm

Your aorta is the largest artery in your body. It goes from your heart, through your chest, to your abdomen (stomach) and supplies blood around your body.

An aortic aneurysm happens when an area of your aorta bulges. This makes the wall of your aorta weaker, which can make it burst. If the aneurysm is higher in your chest, it's called a thoracic aortic aneurysm. If it's lower in your chest, it's called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Carotid aneurysm

You have two carotid arteries, one on the right and one on the left side of your neck. Both supply blood to your brain, neck and face. A carotid artery aneurysm happens when a weak part of the artery wall bulges.

Often you have no symptoms. If the aneurysm gets large you may have difficulty swallowing, your face may become swollen and you voice may be hoarse.

If a blood clots breaks away from the carotid aneurysm it can cause a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or stroke.

Iliac aneurysm

As your aorta travels down your body, it divides into two arteries, with one going to each leg. These are your iliac arteries.

As well as the causes of aneurysms listed above, you're more likely to get an iliac aneurysm if you've recently had a infection, or hip or lower-back surgery.

Popliteal aneurysm

Your popliteal artery runs behind your knee and supplies blood to your knee joint, thigh and calf.

Having blood vessel surgery in one or both legs may increase the risk of having a popliteal aneurysm.

Symptoms can include pain behind your knee or foot, swelling in your lower leg, and sometimes ulcers (sores) on your foot that don’t heal. Some people have no symptoms.

Popliteal aneurysms usually don't rupture. But the aneurysm can cause a clot to form, which blocks the blood flow to your lower leg.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2018.

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