Brain Hemorrhage (Brain Bleeding)

  • Medical Author:
    Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

    Dr. Taylor has a passion for treating patients as individuals. In practice since 1994, she has a wide range of experience in treating patients with many types of movement disorders and dementias. In addition to patient care, she is actively involved in the training of residents and medical students, and has been both primary and secondary investigator in numerous research studies through the years. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology). She graduated with a BS degree from Alma College, and an MS (biomechanics) from Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her internship and residency were completed at Botsford General Hospital. Additionally, she completed a fellowship in movement disorders with Dr. Peter LeWitt. She has been named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists. She is board-certified in neurology by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has authored several articles and lectured extensively; she continues to write questions for two national medical boards. Dr. Taylor is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) of the Alzheimer's Association of Michigan, and is a reviewer for the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Read about subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain hemorrhage) symptoms, dianosis, and treatment.

Brain Hemorrhage Symptoms

The Worst Headache of Your Life

"Doctor, I have the worst headache of my life." Those words send up a warning when a doctor walks into a room to see the patient. The textbooks say that this symptom is one of the clues that the patient may be suffering from a subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain hemorrhage) from a leaking cerebral aneurysm. These words don't mean that a disaster is waiting to happen, but the red flag is waving. If those words are associated with a patient who is lying very still, complaining of a stiff neck, and has difficulty tolerating the lights in the room, this makes the suspicions rise even higher. Add vomiting and confusion as associated symptoms, and the sirens are going off in the doctor's head. Something bad is happening and time is critical.

There are four major blood vessels that supply the brain: two carotid arteries, right and left, that are located in the front of the neck and two vertebral arteries that are located in the back of the neck. They join together at the base of the brain forming an arterial loop known as the Circle of Willis, and from there smaller arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the far corners of the brain. There is a potential that one of the connecting points of those four major arteries can be weak.

What is a brain hemorrhage?

A brain hemorrhage is bleeding in or around the brain. Causes of brain hemorrhage include high blood pressure, abnormally weak blood vessels that leak, drug abuse, and trauma. Many people who experience a brain hemorrhage have symptoms as though they are having a stroke, and can develop weakness on one side of their body, difficulty speaking, or a sense of numbness. Difficulty performing usual activities, including problems with walking or even falling, are not uncommon symptoms. About 10% of all strokes are hemorrhagic, or caused by bleeding into the brain.

Brain hemorrhage is often labeled according to precisely where it occurs in the brain. In general, bleeding anywhere inside of the skull is called an intracranial hemorrhage. Bleeding within the brain itself is known as an intracerebral hemorrhage. Bleeding can also occur between the covering of the brain and the brain tissue itself, referred to as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. If a blood clot occurs between the skull and the brain, it is known as either a subdural or epidural hematoma depending on whether it is below or above the tough covering (dura) of the brain. Subdural and epidural hematomas are more likely to occur as a result of trauma or after a fall and will not be addressed in detail here.

It is important to recognize that when bleeding occurs within the brain itself, headache may not occur, as our brains don't have the ability to sense the ongoing disturbance. However, the coverings of the brain (meninges) are extremely sensitive and if bleeding occurs there, as when an aneurysm ruptures, a sudden and severe headache is a common symptom.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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