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An aneurysm is a weakening of a blood vessel, especially the wall of the blood vessel. The wall may balloon out and may rupture. A sudden, ruptured aneurysm can cause severe bleeding and be life-threatening.
Aneurysms can occur in the abdomen, chest, brain or large arteries in the legs and arms. Aneurysms may also occur behind the knee, in the kidney or in an internal organ. The two most common types of aneurysm are an aortic aneurysm, which occurs along the larger artery that moves blood from the left ventricle of the heart, and a cerebral aneurysm, which occurs in the brain.
Aneurysms occur more frequently in men than women, and are more common in people over age 60 years. People with a family history of aneurysm or inherited defects of the aorta, as in Marfan syndrome, have a higher risk for an aneurysm. Smokers and people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at increased risk, too. Injuries or infections may also cause an aneurysm.
Many people don't know they have a small aneurysm because in most cases, there are no symptoms. For this reason, preventive screening is sometimes recommended.