Brain Aneurysm - Describe Your Experience

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What is a brain aneurysm and what causes a brain aneurysm?

The Circle of Willis is the junction of the four many arteries, two carotid arteries and two vertebral arteries, that supply the brain with nutrition (oxygen and glucose). This loop of arteries is located at the base of the brain and sends out smaller branch arteries to all parts of the brain. The junctions where these arteries come together may develop weak spots. These weak spots can balloon out and fill with blood, creating the outpouchings of blood vessels known as aneurysms. These sac-like areas may leak or rupture, spilling blood into surrounding brain tissue.

Aneurysms have a variety of causes including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, trauma, heredity, and abnormal blood flow at the junction where arteries come together.

There are other rare causes of aneurysms. Mycotic aneurysms are caused by infections of the artery wall. Tumors and trauma can also cause aneurysms to form. Drug abuse, especially cocaine, can cause the artery walls to inflame and weaken.

Brain aneurysms are a common occurrence. At autopsy, incidental aneurysms that have never caused any symptoms or issues are found in more than 1% of people. Most aneurysms remain small and are never diagnosed. Some, however, may gradually become larger and exert pressure on surrounding brain tissue and nerves and may be diagnosed because of stroke-like symptoms including:

  • headache,
  • numbness, or weakness of one side of the face,
  • a dilated pupil, or
  • change in vision.

The greater concern is a brain aneurysm that leaks or ruptures, and potentially causes stroke or death. Blood may leak into one of the membranes (meninges) that covers the brain and spinal canal and is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage (sub= beneath + arachnoid=one of the brain coverings + hemorrhage=bleeding).

Picture of a brain aneurysm
Picture of a brain aneurysm
Return to Aneurysm (Brain)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Arkansas patient, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: September 01

I had a slow bleed brain aneurysm when I was 58 years of age. The onset was a sudden pain that flashed fully from my head down my spine, and immediate nausea. I was able to drive some 15 or 20 minutes to my house, didn't remember how I got in the garage, and couldn't get out of the car once there. After my husband got me inside on the bed, I dry heaved into a bowl and knew nothing more until I woke up in the hospital about to have surgery (coiling procedure at a base of the brain aneurysm). I was in ICU for two weeks, and on a regular hospital floor for one week. I returned to work after five weeks, with no residuals except to rebuild my strength from being bed-ridden for the time I was. I had migraine headaches before the aneurysm with some frequency. Now, not so much, in fact, they are rare. I am on blood pressure medicine now and was before the aneurysm. I was emotionally upset and fearful when mine hit because I was out in bad weather and trying to get home before (as it turns out) a tornado hit.

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Comment from: Lmunday, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 25

I suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by brain aneurysm on December 7, 2013. I felt fine until I bent over and my head exploded and I had the worst headache ever! Then I started throwing up. I had never had a migraine before, so I thought maybe that's what was happening. After several hours of intense pain, I finally was taken to the hospital where they did a CT scan and immediately called for a helicopter to transport me to a hospital. There, the doctor immediately operated and performed a coil embolization. After one week, my body started salt wasting which was scary. Finally, after 10 days in ICU and 2 nights on a step down floor, I was able to go home. The blood that drained from my brain had pooled at my tailbone, so it was hard to get up or down. It took a while for my body to reabsorb that blood. Recovery took a while, but I've now had two cerebral angiograms, and I'm doing great! I'm thankful to be alive!

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