Your aorta is your largest blood vessel, bringing blood from your heart to all other areas of your body. An aortic aneurysm develops when the wall of your aorta weakens and bulges or balloons outward. This can be life-threatening, especially if the aneurysm bursts.\nBelow, you can learn about the signs of this condition and what you can do to lower your risks.\nWhat Is the Aorta?\nYour aorta is the main blood vessel that brings oxygen and nutrients to your legs, pelvis, and abdomen. It is shaped like a cane and comes out from your heart, down through your chest, and into your abdomen (the lower part of your belly).\nTypes of aortic aneurysms\nThere are two types of aortic aneurysms:\n\nThoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA), which happens in the part of your aorta in your chest. This can include the ascending aorta (the short stem of the cane), the aortic arch (the cane handle), and the descending aorta (the longer stem of the cane).\nAbdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), which happens in the part of your aorta in your abdomen.\n\nWhat Are the Symptoms of an Aortic Aneurysm?\nAortic aneurysms usually develop over many years. In most cases, there are no early warning symptoms of its development. As such, it’s important to understand your risk factors, and to talk with your doctor about whether you should be screened for an aneurysm.\nIn some cases, symptoms can occur.\nThoracic aortic aneurysm symptoms\nSymptoms of TAA can include:\n\nJaw pain\nBack pain\nShortness of breath\n\nAbdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms\nSymptoms of AAA can include:\n\nA pulsing feeling near your belly button, like a heart beat\nSevere pain in your abdomen or back that comes and goes\n\nIf an aneurysm bursts, it can cause massive internal bleeding, which can be deadly. A burst aneurysm is a medical emergency, so if you think you or someone else has this condition, call 9-1-1 right away.\nWho Is at Risk for Aortic Aneurysms?\nAortic aneurysms usually happen in men over 60, but other risk factors can include:\n\nSmoking\nAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries\nHigh blood pressure\nHigh cholesterol\nObesity\nChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema\nFamily history of aortic disease\n\nTo help lower your risks, your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. Your doctor may also put you on medicine to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.\nAre\u00a0There Treatments for Aortic Aneurysms?\nEarly diagnosis can save your life, so talk with your doctor about your risks and what tests you might need. Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor may recommend treatment based on the aneurysm size and location, as well as your medical history and other risk factors.\n\nSmaller aneurysms may be watched with regular follow-up visits to your doctor, ultrasound tests, and lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking or medicines to lower high blood pressure.\nLarger aneurysms may need surgery to repair before they burst.\n\nTo schedule an appointment for an evaluation, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at 412-802-3333.