A brain aneurysm is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of an artery supplying blood to the brain. In most instances, it does not trigger any symptoms and left unnoticed. In rare cases, it can rupture and release blood into the skull and trigger a stroke.
Once a brain aneurysm ruptures, it is called subarachnoid hemorrhage. Depending on the severity of the hemorrhage, damage to the brain or even death can occur. The usual sites for aneurysms is in the blood vessel network at the base of the brain which is known as the circle of Willis.
Possible causes of a brain aneurysm
An individual might inherit the likelihood to form aneurysms or develop due to the hardening of the arteries and aging. Certain risk factors that can lead to its formation can be controlled while some could not. These risk factors can increase the chance for developing one or if there is already an aneurysm, they increase the risk for it to rupture:
- Family history
- Previous aneurysm
- Race – individuals with African descent are likely to end up with subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Gender – women are at risk to develop a brain aneurysm or subarachnoid hemorrhage
- High blood pressure – the risk is high among those with a history of this condition
- Smoking – using cigarettes can drastically increase the chances for an aneurysm to rupture
What are the indications?
In most cases of aneurysms, they do not cause any symptoms and might only be discovered during tests for other conditions. In some cases, the aneurysm can cause issues by pressing against areas in the brain. Once this occurs, the individual can suffer from intense headaches, speech changes, blurred vision and neck pain depending on the areas affected and severity of the aneurysm.
The indications of a ruptured brain aneurysm often occur abruptly. If any of these are present, call for emergency assistance right away:
- Sudden, intense headache that is different from previous headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Light sensitivity
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
The doctor will consider several factors before deciding on the suitable treatment for the individual. These factors include the age, size of the aneurysm, overall health and any additional risk factors.
Since the risk for a small-sized aneurysm to rupture is low and surgery is often risky, the doctor might decide to observe the condition. The doctor might recommend ways to keep the blood vessels healthy as much as possible by proper control of high blood pressure and cessation of smoking.
In case the aneurysm is large or triggers pain or other symptoms or the individual had a previous ruptured aneurysm, the doctor might suggest surgery.