Are you at risk of 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 is not 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.
AAAs do not 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 does not go away and/or lower back pain that does not 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 symp-toms, 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.
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.
People at a higher risk of getting an AAA include:
Men aged 65 or over. AAAs are up to six times more common in men than women, and the risk of getting one goes up as you get older.
People who smoke. If you smoke or used to smoke, you’re up to 15 times more likely to get an AAA.
People with high blood pressure. High blood pressure can double your risk of getting an AAA.
People with a parent, sibling or child with an AAA. You’re about fouor times more likely to get an AAA if a close relative has had one.
Speak to your GP if you’re worried you may be at risk of an AAA. They may suggest having a scan to check if you have one and making healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of an AAA.
The recommended treat-ment for an AAA depends on how big it is. Treatment is not always needed straight away if the risk of an AAA bursting is low.