Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (Easy to read)

An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart (artery). It happens when blood pushes against a weak or damaged place on the wall of the blood vessel. An abdominal aortic aneurysm happens in the main blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart (aorta).

Most aneurysms do not cause problems, but some do cause problems. If an aneurysm grows, it can burst or tear. This causes bleeding inside you. It is an emergency. It can be life-threatening.

What are the causes?

The exact cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Being male and 60 years of age or older.

  • Being of North European descent.

  • Using nicotine or tobacco now or in the past.

  • Having a family history of aneurysms.

  • Having any of these problems:

    • Hardening of blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

    • Irritation and swelling of the walls of blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

    • Certain genetic problems.

    • Being very overweight.

    • An infection in the wall of your aorta.

    • High cholesterol.

    • High blood pressure (hypertension).

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms depend on the size of your aneurysm and how fast it is growing. Most aneurysms grow slowly and do not cause symptoms. If symptoms happen, you may:

  • Have very bad pain in your belly (abdomen), side, or low back.

  • Feel full after eating only a little food.

  • Feel a throbbing lump in your belly.

  • Have these problems with your feet or toes:

    • Pain.

    • Skin turning blue.

    • Sores.

  • Have trouble pooping (constipation).

  • Have trouble peeing (urinating).

If your aneurysm bursts, you may:

  • Feel sudden, very bad pain in the belly, side, or back.

  • Feel like you may vomit.

  • Vomit.

  • Feel light-headed.

  • Faint.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on:

  • The size of your aneurysm.

  • How fast it is growing.

  • Your age.

  • Your risk of having the aneurysm burst.

If your aneurysm is smaller than 2 inches (5 cm), your doctor may:

  • Check it often to see if it is growing. You may have an imaging test (ultrasound) to check it every 3–6 months, every year, or every few years.

  • Give you medicines for:

    • High blood pressure.

    • Pain.

    • Infection.

If your aneurysm is larger than 2 inches (5 cm), you may need surgery to fix it.

Follow these instructions at home:

Eating and drinking

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat a lot of:

    • Fresh fruits and vegetables.

    • Whole grains.

    • Low-fat (lean) protein.

    • Low-fat dairy products.

  • Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. These foods include red meat and some dairy products.


  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.

  • Stay active and get exercise. Ask your doctor how often to exercise and what types of exercise are safe for you.

  • Keep a healthy weight.

Alcohol use

  • Do not drink alcohol if:

    • Your doctor tells you not to drink.

    • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.

  • If you drink alcohol:

    • Limit how much you use to:

      • 0–1 drink a day for women.

      • 0–2 drinks a day for men.

    • Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.

  • Keep your blood pressure in a normal range. Check it at regular times. Ask your doctor what level it should be.

  • Have regular checks of your levels of blood sugar (glucose) and cholesterol. Follow steps to keep these levels near normal.

  • Avoid heavy lifting and activities that take a lot of effort. Ask what activities are safe for you.

  • If you can, learn your family’s health history.

  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your belly, side, or back hurts.

  • Your belly throbs.

  • You have a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • You have sudden, bad pain in your belly, side, or back.

  • You feel like you may vomit or you vomit.

  • You feel light-headed or you faint.

  • Your heart beats fast when you stand.

  • You have sweaty skin that is cold to the touch (clammy).

  • You are short of breath.

  • You have trouble pooping.

  • You have trouble peeing.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


  • An aneurysm is a bulge in one of the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart (artery). An abdominal aortic aneurysm happens in the main blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart (aorta).

  • This condition can cause bleeding inside the body. It can be life-threatening.

  • Risk can rise if you are male, age 60 or older, and of North European descent. Risk can also rise from nicotine or tobacco use or having aneurysms in the family.

  • Get help right away if you have symptoms of a burst aneurysm.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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