An aneurysm is a stretched and weakened portion of an artery wall. It is usually the result of chronic hypertension, arteriosclerosis or heredity. Aneurysms are most likely to form in the abdominal aorta and in the arteries supplying the brain and kidneys. As the weakened part of the artery continues to stretch, the risk of rupture increases. A ruptured aneurysm can cause hemorrhage that results in death.
Arteriosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries can cause the walls of the blood vessel to weaken. Fat, cholesterol and other materials collect in the vessels and form plaque. This decreases the diameter of the blood vessel and increases blood pressure. Hypertension causes an increase in pressure inside the blood vessels, which can lead to weak walls. Diabetes promotes the formation of plaque, leading to an increased risk of developing an aneurysm. Diabetic aneurysms often form in the peripheral arteries.
Physicians have developed minimally invasive procedures for treating many types of aneurysms. Cerebral, or brain aneurysms are normally treated with surgical clipping. The procedure requires removal of a portion of the skull to access the brain and expose the aneurysm. A newer technique for treating brain aneurysms uses platinum coils to start the clotting process that eliminates the aneurysm. The coil is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin, is eased through the aorta and brain arteries and then into the aneurysm.
The best treatment for an aneurysm is prevention. Regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet, low in cholesterol and high in antioxidants can prevent the formation of plaque in the blood vessels and keep blood pressure within a normal range. The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include a severe headache, neck pain and pain above or behind the eyes and loss of eyesight or double vision. Consult a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.