ANEURYSMS: An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of an artery and if it grows to a large size it can burst and cause bleeding or even death even though there may not be any symptoms beforehand. Aneurysms can form in various parts of the body but the most common area is the aorta, the main artery traveling from the heart. (Source: www.nih.gov)
SIGNS: It has been estimated that about half of all aneurysms burst and typically there are no signs up until the aneurysm ruptures. While sudden death would be the most obvious and severe sign of a ruptured aneurysm, other times the signs are mistaken as something else and treatment is not sought. Some signs of a ruptured brain aneurysm are:
- A sudden, extremely painful headache is the most common sign of a ruptured brain aneurysm.
- Vision changes, eye lid drooping, lethargy, speech impairment and seizures may also be the result of a burst brain aneurysm and some of these signs may also signify a stroke caused by the rupture. (Source: www.womenshealthresearch.org)
Unfortunately, aortic aneurysms tend to have more fatal consequences when they rupture than brain aneurysms. More than 90% of ruptured aortic aneurysms are fatal so the best chance of survival is detection of the bulge before it bursts. There usually are no symptoms unless the aneurysm grows large enough that puts pressure on other organs, but there are some signs of a ruptured aortic aneurysm and it is extremely important to call 911 immediately if you experience these:
- Sudden and intense upper back or chest pain, such as a ripping or tearing sensation.
- Weakness, trouble standing, passing out, or feelings of dizziness.
- Confusion and anxiety (Source: www.hearthealthywomen.org)
RISK FOR WOMEN: Women are actually less likely to have an aortic aneurysm than men with the aneurysms 5 to 10 times more common in men. However, as women age their risk for an aortic aneurysm increases greatly, especially if they are smokers (Source: www.hearthealthywomen.org). On the other hand, women are twice as likely to develop cerebral aneurysms as men and their risk increases over the 35 years old. It is not known exactly why women are more prone to develop cerebral aneurysms but since the aneurysms are more often found in women close to or experiencing menopause, it is though that declining estrogen levels might make women more vulnerable. This has led some doctors to believe hormone replacement therapy will help to lower the risk but the benefits of this are still unclear. The best thing women can do is be aware of their risk and quit smoking. (Source: www.womenshealthresearch.org)