What is an AAA?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and tummy.
An AAA can be dangerous if it isn’t spotted early on. It can get bigger over time and could burst (rupture), causing life-threatening bleeding.
Men aged 65 and over are most at risk of AAAs. This is why men are invited for screening to check for an AAA when they’re 65.
Symptoms of an AAA
AAAs don’t usually cause any obvious symptoms and are often only picked up during screening or tests carried out for another reason.
Some people with an AAA have a pulsing sensation in the tummy (like a heartbeat), tummy pain that doesn’t go away or lower back pain that doesn’t go away.
If an AAA bursts, it can cause sudden, severe pain in the tummy or lower back, dizziness, sweaty, pale and clammy skin, a fast heartbeat, shortness of breath and/or fainting or passing out.
When to get medical help
Make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms, especially if you’re at a higher risk of an AAA. An ultrasound scan of your tummy may be done to check if you have one. Call for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else develops symptoms of a burst AAA.
Who’s at risk of an AAA
An AAA can form if the sides of the aorta weaken and balloon outwards. It’s not always clear why this happens but there are things that increase the risk.
The recommended treatment for an AAA depends on how big it is. Treatment isn’t always needed straight away if the risk of an AAA bursting is low.