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A brain (cerebral) aneurysm is an abnormal bulging, weak area in the wall
of an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Most aneurysms are small
and are not at risk to break. These aneurysms cause no symptoms and usually
go unnoticed. However, in some cases, the aneurysm may rupture, releasing
blood into the skull, causing a stroke. When a brain aneurysm ruptures,
the result is a
subarachnoid hemorrhage. Brain damage or death may result depending on the severity of the rupture.
Most aneurysms occur at the base of the brain.
There are varying causes of brain aneurysms however an aneurysm is considered
an acquired or inherited condition. Some risk factors that can lead to
brain aneurysms can be controlled and some can't. Risk factors that
may increase a person's chance of developing an aneurysm or may increase
the chance of a rupture if you already have an aneurysm may include:
- Family history of brain aneurysms are more likely to have an aneurysm than
those who don't.
- People who have had a previous aneurysm are at a higher risk to have another.
People who have inherited disorders such as polycystic kidney disease,
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or
- Neurofibromatosis – eight genetic disorders of the nervous system
that affect the development and growth of nerve cell tissues.
- Other risk factors include:
- Elderly population
- Prolonged smoking
- High blood pressure
- Heavy alcohol and/or drug use
- Head injuries
- Gender (females are more likely than males to develop brain aneurysms)
- Race (African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to experience hemorrhages)
Most brain aneurysms cause no symptoms so they remain undetected. They
are usually discovered during tests for other unrelated conditions. However,
if an unruptured aneurysm causes problems by pressing on areas in the
brain it may cause various symptoms including:
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision
- Neck pain
- Possible changes in speech
Because a ruptured aneurysm comes on suddenly, you should be aware of the
following symptoms and seek emergency medical treatment right away if
you experience any of the following:
- Sudden, severe headache that is very different than past headaches.
- Sudden neck pain
- Sudden nausea or vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Light sensitivity
Diagnosis of brain aneurysms begins by collecting a full medical history
to determine if a patient is in a high risk category. Family history of
aneurysms (or strokes) and detail of symptoms are very important in the
diagnostic procedure. If your doctor suspects a possible aneurysm, you
may also have the following tests done to verify the diagnosis.
CT scan – this will reveal any bleeding in the brain.
CTA scan – this method is more precise in evaluating blood vessels.
Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA ) – this technique is similar to a CTA however it uses a magnetic
field and uses pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of the