An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the
lower part of the major vessel that supplies blood to the
body (aorta). The aorta runs from your heart through the
center of your chest and abdomen.
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, so a
ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-
Depending on the size of the aneurysm and how fast it's
growing, treatment varies from watchful waiting to
Abdominal aortic aneurysms often grow slowly without
symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Some
aneurysms never rupture. Many start small and stay small;
others expand over time, some quickly.
If you have an enlarging abdominal aortic aneurysm, you
Deep, constant pain in your abdomen or on the side of
A pulse near your bellybutton
When to see a doctor
If you have pain, especially if pain is sudden and severe,
seek immediate medical help.
Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, but
most aortic aneurysms occur in the part of your aorta
that's in your abdomen. A number of factors can play a
role in developing an aortic aneurysm, including:
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Atherosclerosis occurs when fat and other substances
build up on the lining of a blood vessel.
High blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage
and weaken the aorta's walls.
Blood vessel diseases.
These are diseases that cause blood vessels to become
Infection in the aorta. Rarely, a bacterial or fungal
infection might cause an abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Trauma. For example, being in a car accident can cause
an abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm risk factors include:
Tobacco use. Smoking is the strongest risk factor. It can
weaken the aortic walls, increasing the risk not only of
developing an aortic aneurysm, but of rupture. The longer
and more you smoke or chew tobacco, the greater the
chances of developing an aortic aneurysm.
Age. These aneurysms occur most often in people age 65
Being male. Men develop abdominal aortic aneurysms
much more often than women do.
Being white. People who are white are at higher risk of
abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Family history. Having a family history of abdominal aortic
aneurysms increases your risk of having the condition.
Other aneurysms. Having an aneurysm in another large
blood vessel, such as the artery behind the knee or the
aorta in the chest, might increase your risk of an
abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Tears in one or more of the layers of the wall of the aorta
(aortic dissection) or a ruptured aneurysm are the main
complications. A rupture can cause life-threatening
internal bleeding. In general, the larger the aneurysm and
the faster it grows, the greater the risk of rupture.
Signs and symptoms that your aortic aneurysm has
ruptured can include:
Sudden, intense and persistent abdominal or back pain,
which can be described as a tearing sensation
Low blood pressure
Aortic aneurysms also put you at risk of developing blood
clots in the area. If a blood clot breaks loose from the
inside wall of an aneurysm and blocks a blood vessel
elsewhere in your body, it can cause pain or block the
blood flow to the legs, toes, kidneys or abdominal organs.
To prevent an aortic aneurysm or keep an aortic aneurysm
from worsening, do the following:
Don't use tobacco products. Quit smoking or chewing
tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke.
Eat a healthy diet. Focus on eating a variety of fruits and
vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy
products. Avoid saturated fat, trans fats and limit salt.
Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. If
your doctor has prescribed medications, take them as
Get regular exercise. Try to get at least 150 minutes a
week of moderate aerobic activity. If you haven't been
active, start slowly and build up. Talk to your doctor about
what kinds of activities are right for you.
If you're at risk of an aortic aneurysm, your doctor might
recommend other measures, such as medications to
lower your blood pressure and relieve stress on weakened