How to Spot an Aneurysm

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 20, 2022

Detecting an aneurysm yourself is difficult since symptoms are rare. But some people are at higher risk of getting one.

Your best strategy is to:

  • Know if you are at risk
  • Be familiar with the symptoms of an aneurysm
  • Take preventive steps

Although most aneurysms have no symptoms, you may see:

  • Sudden and severe pain, often described as ripping or tearing
  • An unusual pulsing sensation, pain, or a lump anywhere blood vessels are

Some symptoms can be a sign of a specific type of aneurysm:

  • Pain in the abdomen or lower back extending into the groin and legs may be due to an abdominal aneurysm. You may see or feel a throbbing lump. These may be coupled with weight loss or a smaller appetite.
  • A pain in the chest, hoarseness, persistent coughing, and difficulty swallowing may indicate a thoracic aneurysm. That’s caused by weakness in the upper aorta, one of your main blood vessels.
  • A throbbing sensation or lump directly behind the knee may be caused by a popliteal aneurysm. The popliteal artery runs behind your knee joint.
  • A severe headache, like none you've ever had before, may come from a dissecting or rupturing aneurysm in your head. Dissecting aneurysms are caused when the force of blood pumping splits the layers of an artery wall. They can happen in many places in your body. Both dissecting and rupturing aneurysms are always an emergency.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you think you may have an aneurysm, make the call right away. Many are serious and require a medical evaluation. An aneurysm that ruptures could be life-threatening.

Show Sources


American Heart Association.

Mayo Clinic: “Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.”

Mayo Clinic: “Popliteal artery aneurysm.”

CDC: “Aortic Aneurysm Fact Sheet.”

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