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Definition

What is cerebral aneurysm?

A cerebral aneurysm (brain aneurysm) is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. It often looks like a berry hanging on a stem. A cerebral aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Most often a ruptured cerebral aneurysm occurs in the space between the brain and the thin tissues covering the brain.

A cerebral aneurysm is a potentially life-threatening condition. If a cerebral aneurysm bursts, it is an emergency situation that can result in a stroke, brain damage, and even death if it is not treated immediately.

How common is cerebral aneurysm?

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, not all aneurysms will rupture. Around 6 million people in the USA have aneurysms that haven’t ruptured. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of all aneurysms never rupture in a person’s lifetime.

Only about 30,000 of people in the USA experience ruptured aneurysms each year. 40 percent of ruptured aneurysms are fatal.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cerebral aneurysm?

Depending on the stage of the cerebral aneurysm, the symptoms of each stage is quite different.

Ruptured aneurysm

A sudden, severe headache is the most important symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. This headache is often described as the “worst headache” ever the patient has suffered.

Common signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:

  • Sudden, extremely severe headache;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Stiff neck;
  • Blurred or double vision;
  • Sensitivity to light;
  • Seizure;
  • A drooping eyelid;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Confusion.

‘Leaking’ aneurysm

In some cases, an aneurysm may leak a slight amount of blood. This leaking (sentinel bleed) may cause only a:

  • Sudden, extremely severe headache
  • A more severe rupture almost always follows leaking.

Unruptured aneurysm

An unruptured cerebral aneurysm may have no symptoms, particularly if it’s small. However, a huge unruptured aneurysm may press on brain tissues and nerves, possibly causing:

  • Pain above and behind an eye;
  • A dilated pupil;
  • Change in vision or double vision;
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the face;
  • A drooping eyelid.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes cerebral aneurysm?

Cerebral aneurysms develop as a result of thinning artery walls. Aneurysms often form at forks or branches in arteries because those sections of the vessel are weaker. Although aneurysms can appear anywhere in the brain, they are most popular in arteries at the base of the brain.

A study in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke concluded that the following causes may irritate the rupture of an existing aneurysm:

  • Excessive exercise;
  • Coffee or soda consumption;
  • Straining during bowel movements;
  • Intense anger;
  • Startling;
  • Sexual intercourse.

Some aneurysms develop over the course of a person’s lifetime, some are inherited, and some result from brain injuries.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cerebral aneurysm?

Some common risk factors can increase this condition, include:

  • Family history

People who have a family history of cerebral aneurysms are more likely to have an aneurysm than those who do not.

  • Previous aneurysm

People who have had a cerebral aneurysm are more likely to have another.

  • Gender

Women are more likely to develop a cerebral aneurysm or to suffer a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

  • Race

African Americans are more likely than whites to have a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

  • High blood pressure

The risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage is greater in people who have a history of high blood pressure.

  • Smoking

In addition to being a cause of high blood pressure, the use of cigarettes may greatly increase the chances of a cerebral aneurysm rupturing.

Diagnosis &treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cerebral aneurysm diagnosed?

If your doctor thinks that you have a cerebral aneurysm, you may need to do some following tests:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

A CT scan can help identify the place where the bleeding is in the brain. Sometimes a lumbar puncture may be used if your doctor suspects that you have a ruptured cerebral aneurysm with a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

  • Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) scan

CTA is a more precise method of evaluating blood vessels than a standard CT scan. CTA uses a combination of CT scanning, special computer techniques, and contrast material (dye) injected into the blood to produce images of blood vessels.

  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)

Similar to a CTA, MRA uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. As with CTA and cerebral angiography, a dye is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly.

  • Cerebral angiogram

During this X-ray test, a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and moved up through the vessel into the brain. A dye is then injected into the cerebral artery. As with the above tests, the dye allows any problems in the artery, including aneurysms, to be seen on the X-ray. Although this test is more invasive and carries more risk than the above tests, it is the best way to locate small (< 5 mm) cerebral aneurysms.

How is cerebral aneurysm treated?

Treatment for aneurysm varies based on the size, location, and severity of the aneurysm as well as whether or not it has ruptured or is leaking

Because the risk of a small (< 10 mm) cerebral aneurysm rupturing is low and surgery for a cerebral aneurysm is often risky, your doctor may want to continue to observe your condition rather than do surgery. If your aneurysm is large or causing pain or other symptoms, though, or if you have had a previous ruptured aneurysm, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Lifestyle changes &home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cerebral aneurysm?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products
  • Exercising regularly, but not excessively
  • Managing high blood pressure or high cholesterol

Or if you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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