The cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms, or AAA, is unknown, but a prominent theory is that the aorta walls gradually break down from inflammation, according to VascularWeb. Doctors also believe AAA is linked to hardened arteries and shares similar risk factors, including high blood pressure, advanced age and smoking. Men are more likely than women to develop AAA, especially if there is a family history of the condition.
AAA occurs when pressure builds up in a weak section of the aorta, causing a bulge to form, VascularWeb states. The aorta is a major artery that circulates blood and oxygen from the heart to the lower body. Possible symptoms include a pulsing sensation or sudden, intense pain in the abdomen. Individuals may also feel pain in the lower back or experience soreness and discoloration of the feet. If the aorta expands to a dangerous size, it may rupture and cause internal bleeding. Other symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include dizziness, weakness and loss of consciousness.
Doctors use ultrasound to periodically monitor aneurysms that are smaller than 1.6 inches in diameter, according to Mayo Clinic. If an aneurysm grows larger than 2.2 inches, doctors may recommend open abdominal surgery to replace the weakned section of aorta with a synthetic graft. Another option is endovascular surgery, which involves using a catheter to insert a graft and secure it with surgical pins.