January 2, 2013 11.25 am This story is over 132 months old

Your health: Don’t burst a blood vessel!

Abdominal and cerebral aneurysms: Our health columnist looks at the dangers of aneurysms, and how to spot signs.

The word aneurysm comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to dilate’ and is used to describe a widening of a blood vessel where the wall of the vessel is weakened and bulges out as blood flows through it. Aneurysms occur anywhere in the body and are more common in arteries than veins.

What exactly causes aneurysms is unclear; however some of the risk factors for an arterial aneurysm (AA) are: smoking, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congenital weakening of the arteries and a family history of aneurysms. What sex and age you are has a bearing too. Addressing some of these factors now can help lower your risk.

Two common areas that AA’s can be found are the abdominal area and brain. Men are five times more at risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women, and the older a person is, the more likely they will develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Whereas brain aneurysms (often called intracranial or cerebral aneurysms) affect more women than men and each year only 1 in 12,500 rupture. Interestingly, anger can be a risk factor in rupturing a brain aneurysm!

Most AA’s are symptomless unless, as they grow, they start to press on surrounding structures or rupture. See below for some possible symptoms of not ruptured and ruptured AA’s.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Not ruptured

  • A vibrating feeling in your abdomen, usually near your belly button, that’s usually only noticeable when you touch it
  • Pain in the abdomen, back, loin or groin
  • If you are very slim you may notice an abdominal lump


  • Pain in middle/side of abdomen, in men pain can also radiate down into the scrotum
  • Dizziness
  • Cold and sweaty
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Faintness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low blood pressure

Cerebral Aneurysm

Not ruptured

  • Visual disturbances, i.e. loss of vision/double vision
  • Difficulties moving one of your eyes
  • Pain on one side of your face or around your eye
  • Inability to move some facial muscles; usually only one side of your face is affected
  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)


  • Sudden, severe headache likened to being hit on the head
  • Stiff neck
  • Feeling/being sick
  • Slurred speech
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness/paralysis of an arm or leg

Treatment and surgery for aneurysms depend on whether the aneurysm has ruptured or not and what size and shape it is and where it is located.

Lisa Boulton is the Medical Director of Amethyst Health Screening, a local company which carries out health checks and cardiovascular risk assessments for Lincoln residents and local businesses. She contributes on health-related topics for The Lincolnite.