Brain aneurysms may rarely cause any warning symptoms before they rupture. Symptoms may occur if the aneurysm is large or if it causes pressure on the structures, such as nerves or meninges (the three-layered covering over the brain), around it. Though most of the aneurysms do not rupture, the warning symptoms of unruptured aneurysms must be taken seriously and immediate medical help must be sought. These warning symptoms include:
What is a brain aneurysm?
A brain aneurysm, also called intracranial or cerebral aneurysm, is an abnormal swelling or bulge in the walls of a blood vessel in the brain. It is caused by an area of weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. Usually, it occurs at the site where the blood vessel branches. When blood flows through such a weak blood vessel, the blood pressure causes the area to bulge like a balloon. The pressure may cause rupture of the aneurysm leading to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency and may manifest as:
What are the risk factors for brain aneurysm?
Many risk factors contribute to the formation of aneurysms, such as:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Age (over 40 years)
- Family history of brain aneurysms (familial aneurysms)
- Gender: women have a higher risk of aneurysms than men
- Race: people of color have a greater risk of ruptured aneurysms
- Certain chronic conditions such as Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), Marfan’s syndrome, and fibromuscular dysplasia
- Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain: AVM is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, which disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation.
- Inborn abnormality in the artery
- Drug abuse especially cocaine use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Severe head injury
What is the treatment for a brain aneurysm?
Advances in medical science and technology have provided various treatment options for brain aneurysms. The treatment option which is best for a person depends on:
- The patient’s neurological condition
- The patient’s general health and presence of other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart diseases
- The patient’s age
- The location, size and shape of the aneurysm
- Whether the aneurysm is ruptured or not
- The risk of aneurysm rupture
- The availability of treatment options
- Family history of aneurysm
- Family history of subarachnoid hemorrhage
The treatment options for brain aneurysms are:
- Open surgery (clipping): Clipping is a popular surgical method for treating a brain aneurysm. In this procedure, the surgeon exposes the aneurysm with a craniotomy (surgically opening the skull) and places a tiny metal clip across the base of the aneurysm so that blood cannot enter it.
- Endovascular therapy: The term endovascular means within the blood vessels or vascular system. Endovascular therapy requires a small incision to repair the aneurysm using coils, stents or flow diversion device
- No treatment: Most of the brain aneurysms do not rupture. The doctor may advise observation, with control of risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure. They may advise to repeat imaging from time to time.
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Stroke vs Aneurysm (Differences and Similarities)
A stroke or "brain attack" is caused because blood flow to an area of the brain has been cut off by a blood clot or by a weakened or damaged blood vessel (for example, head trauma). The damaged area of the brain dies, which results in loss of function like speech capabilities, muscle movement, or muscles of an extremity like an arm or leg is reduced or lost completely. An aneurysm is a weakness in an artery wall. This weakness in the wall causes the artery to widen or balloon out, and then they rupture or break open.
A person with an brain aneurysm generally won't have any symptoms until it becomes a problem. The symptoms and signs are similar to a stroke.
Symptoms and signs of a stroke include:
- Vision problems
- Severe headache with no known cause
- Loss of memory
- Trouble getting words out
- Trouble typing, texting, or other coordination problems
Both the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association recommend using the FAST system to recognize and treat strokes. If you think someone may be having a stroke, remember FAST!
- F - Facial drooping
- A - Arm weakness
- S - Speech difficulty
- T - time - DO NOT DELAY. Call 911.
If you think someone is having a stroke or aneurysm call 911 immediately.
Both conditions require medical treatment. The prognosis for both diseases depend on the extent of the damage to the brain and any other affected areas of the body.