Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Aneurysms

4-minute read

What is an aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery or vein usually caused by a weakening of the blood vessel wall.

Aneurysms can be harmless. As long as they don't rupture (burst), they probably won't cause any problems.

But the danger with aneurysms is that they can burst because the vessel wall is weakened. This can be very dangerous, causing bleeding and even death.

If you think you might have an aneurysm, go to the nearest emergency department or call an ambulance on triple zero (000).

Aneurysms can occur anywhere. But there are two main types that are very serious — aortic aneurysms and brain aneurysms (also called cerebral aneurysms).

Aortic aneurysms occur in the aorta, which is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Brain aneurysms affect blood vessels in the brain.

Aneurysms can occur at any age but are more common in adults.

What are the symptoms of an aneurysm?

The symptoms of an aneurysm depend on where it is and whether it bleeds or bursts (ruptures).

Sometimes there is a small leak of blood from the aneurysm. This can cause:

  • a sudden headache and nausea if it is in the brain
  • a sudden pain in the tummy or back if it is in the tummy

If the aneurysm bursts, it is very serious and can be fatal. If a brain aneurysm bursts, it can cause a sudden, very severe headache, nausea and vomiting. The person may become unconscious.

If an aortic aneurysms bursts, the person gets sudden pain in the back or belly and feels very weak. They may black out.

Sometimes a burst aneurysm in the brain can cause a stroke.

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered by using the word 'FAST': Face-Arms-Speech-Time is critical.

Face — The face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

Arms — The person with the suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness.

Speech — Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.

Time is critical — It is time to call triple zero (000) immediately to ask for an ambulance if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes an aneurysm?

Aneurysms can be congenital — that is, people can be born with them. They are more common in some families.

They are often due to a gradual weakening of the wall of an artery or vein. This can be due to high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels, or smoking. An aneurysm can be caused by an accident or injury that damages the artery or vein such as a head injury.

They can also occur with certain medical conditions such as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) polycystic kidney disease and some connective tissue disorders.

Using stimulant drugs like cocaine can also cause a brain aneurysm.

How are aneurysms treated?

If you have an aneurysm, you will need to have regular check-ups to monitor its size and your health. Usually, small aneurysms have a very small risk of bursting so your doctor will just check you regularly.

If the aneurysm grows, bursts or your doctor thinks it's likely to burst, you may need to have surgery. This involves clipping the aneurysm to prevent blood from reaching it, or inserting a tube through your groin to treat the aneurysm.

If the aneurysm causes bleeding on the brain, you will need emergency treatment in hospital.

If you have an aneurysm, your doctor may discuss ways you can prevent it from bursting. These include stopping smoking, treating high blood pressure if you have it, not lifting heavy weights, and cutting down on alcohol.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Aneurysm - myDr.com.au

An aneurysm is a swelling in a blood vessel when its wall is weakened. The greatest danger from an aneurysm is that it may rupture (burst).

Read more on myDr website

Aneurysm - Better Health Channel

An aneurysm may have no symptoms until it is either very large or it ruptures.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Aneurysm - Brain Foundation

Aneurysm Cerebral Aneurysm, Brain Aneurysm Description Cerebral aneurysm is a common disorder caused by a weakness in the wall of a brain artery

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Interventional Radiological Treatment of Intracranial (Brain) Aneurysms - InsideRadiology

An intracranial (brain) aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning of the wall of an artery, which is a type of blood vessel carrying blood to the brain.

Read more on InsideRadiology website

Haemorrhagic stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Subarachnoid Haemorrhage - Brain Foundation

Subarachnoid Haemorrhage Description Subarachnoid Haemorrhage is the sudden leaking (haemorrhage) of a blood vessel over the surface of the brain

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Kawasaki disease - myDr.com.au

Kawasaki disease is a childhood illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and a high fever. Most children make a full recovery, but some develop heart problems.

Read more on myDr website

Stroke | Vision Australia. Blindness and low vision services

What is stroke?Stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted, cutting off oxygen supply and leading to brain cell death or damage.In some cases, blood vessels spontaneously burst causing a haemorrhage (bleeding).

Read more on Vision Australia website

Apolipoprotein A-I - Lab Tests Online AU

To determine whether you have adequate levels of Apolipoprotein A (Apo A), (especially if you have a low level of HDL-cholesterol) and to help determine your risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD)

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection or "SCAD" - St Vincent's Heart Health

Learn more about Spontaneous Coronary Artery Disease, SCAD, including the causes, symptoms, possible tests and treatments.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo