It is critical to notify your physician immediately if you experience any symptoms of TAA. Left untreated, a TAA may lead to a fatal rupture or organ damage. This is a life-threatening situation and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Most aortic aneurysms show no symptoms and are diagnosed on an X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan performed for evaluation of another condition. Symptoms may be present if the aneurysm presses on nearby organs or tissue.
If you do have symptoms, they will depend on where your aneurysm is located and how large it is. Symptoms of a TAA might mimic a heart attack. Possible symptoms may include:
- Pain in the jaw, neck, and upper back
- Chest or back pain
- Coughing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing
- If the aneurysm leads to dissection, there will probably be a severe tearing pain in the chest or back, stroke, cold or numb extremities or abdominal pain
Causes and Risk Factors
It is not known why aortic aneurysms occur although researchers understand some of the factors that contribute to their development. There is a genetic component to many aneurysms; family members of people with aneurysms are at higher risk of developing one. Regardless of the trigger, the outcome is destruction of the aortic wall, which weakens the wall and results in ballooning out of the aneurysm.
Factors that may increase your risk for aneurysm formation include:
- High blood pressure
- A family history of aneurysms
- Aging: Your risk of developing TAA increases as you age
- TAA is more common in men than in women
The larger your TAA, or the faster it grows, the more likely it is to rupture. The chance of rupture increases when your aneurysm is larger than about twice the normal diameter.
Dissection or tearing of the artery wall, known as aortic aneurysms, may also develop due to an aortic dissection, which is typically associated with high blood pressure. An aortic dissection occurs when blood flow forces the layers of the wall of your aorta apart, which weakens your aorta. The separation can extend from your thoracic aorta through your entire aorta and block arteries to your legs, arms, kidneys, brain, spinal cord, and other areas.
A problem associated with aortic dissection is that over time, the pressure of blood flow can cause the weakened area of your aorta to bulge like a balloon. Much like an over-inflated balloon, an aneurysm can stretch the aorta beyond its safety margin.
Other diseases can weaken the layers of the aortic wall, increasing the risk of aneurysms including: