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Aortic aneurysms often affect how blood flows through the body, which can cause severe symptoms. Most grow slowly, which makes them hard to detect. An aneurysm can occur at any location in the aorta. A ruptured aneurysm is a serious event and requires immediate medical attention.
Aortic aneurysms are caused by atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries related to plaque buildup from fat, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Aneurysms usually occur in people over age 65 years. A few factors can increase the risk, such as a family history of aortic aneurysms, connective tissue diseases (such as Marfan, Ehlers-Danlos and Loeys-Dietz syndromes) or a bicuspid aortic valve. In addition, smoking can increase the risk for developing an aortic aneurysm.
Several types of aortic aneurysm exist: abdominal aortic aneurysm, which occurs along the abdomen, and thoracic aortic aneurysm, which occurs in the chest. Some people may have both, which is called a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. Although more rare, other aneurysms exist, including popliteal (behind the knee), renal (in the kidney) and visceral (in the intestines or an organ).