Aneurysms

Aneurysms

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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.

Causes

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 Marfan's Syndrome.
  • 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)

Symptoms

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
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Light sensitivity

Diagnosis

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 blood vessels.

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