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.
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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:
If an AAA bursts, it can cause:
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 999 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:
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 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.
Treatment for a:
Ask your doctor if you're not sure what size your AAA is.
Read more about treatments for AAAs.
There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting an AAA or help stop one getting bigger.
If you have a condition that increases your risk of an AAA, such as high blood pressure, your GP may also recommend taking tablets to treat this.
In England, screening for AAA is offered to men during the year they turn 65. This can help spot a swelling in the aorta early on, when it can be treated.
The test involves a quick and painless ultrasound scan to see how big your aorta is.
If you're a man over 65 and you haven't been screened, you can request a test by contacting your local AAA screening service directly.
Women and men under 65 aren't routinely invited for screening. But if you think you might have a higher risk of an AAA, talk to your GP about the possibility of having a scan.
Read more about screening for an AAA.