A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulging or protruding of one of the arteries inside the brain. Its symptoms may vary from mild conditions like headaches to severe ones such as a stroke or even death. This article will give you more information regarding this medical condition.
Research shows that, nearly 1 of 15 people in the United States can develop brain aneurysm at least once in their lifetime. It is a medical condition that is characterized by abnormal widening or ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain, which has weakened over time. It mainly develops at the junctions of the large arteries present at the base of the brain, in a region called the Circle of Willis. When the blood vessel gets ruptured, it causes bleeding into the brain or the space closely surrounding it (called the subarachnoid space), thereby leading to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. It can be life-threatening and one should seek immediate medical attention. However, most of them remain small and never become an issue and usually get detected during tests for other conditions.
A brain aneurysm is an acquired problem i.e., it is not present from birth but develops over time. However, some of the probable causes are:
- Neurofibromatosis: Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system that dominantly affects the growth and development of neural or nerve cell tissues that causes tumors to grow on the nerve.
- Tobacco Consumption: Chewing tobacco or smoking is another factor that primarily increases the risk of this disorder. In fact, studies show that non-smokers have nearly 10 times more potential to sustain a rupture than a smoker.
- High Blood Pressure: The risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage or rupture is more in people with a history of high blood pressure (hypertension).
- High Cholesterol: Although the effect of high cholesterol remains unclear, some studies show that it can also lead to the rupturing of the aneurysm.
- Alcohol Abuse: Moderate to high level of alcohol abuse is another factor contributing to a rupture.
Usually there are no symptoms; however, some of the probable ones are given below:
Before an aneurysm ruptures, patients usually experience no symptoms, however, when the head is pressed on the affected areas of the brain, the patient may experience some or all the following:
- Severe headaches
- Peripheral vision deficits
- Perceptual problems
- Thinking or processing problems
- Speech complications
- Short-term memory difficulty
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Decreased concentration
- Loss of balance and coordination
These symptoms usually come abruptly and are more severe. Following are some of them:
- Severe headache or migraine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Stiff neck or neck pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of sensation
- Dilated pupils
- Pain above and behind the eye
The diagnosis generally includes the following tests:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: To detect bleeding in the brain.
- Computed Tomography Angiogram (CTA) scan: To locate the actual site of the aneurysm.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): To obtain images or pictures of blood vessels.
- Cerebral Angiogram: It is an X-ray test, employed to locate small (less than 5 mm) aneurysms.
The treatment involves repairing the affected blood vessels. Coil embolization and surgical clipping are the two main surgeries used to cure this disorder. Coil embolization is a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the affected artery. Tiny metal coils are then moved through the tube into the aneurysm, thereby easing pressure and reducing its probability to rupture. This procedure is less invasive and more effective than surgical clipping. Surgical clipping is another method, where a tiny metal clip is placed around the base of the aneurysm to isolate it from normal blood circulation. It also relieves the pressure and keeps it from rupturing.
A brain aneurysm can be life-threatening, if left untreated for long. The main dangers are suffering from a stroke or in extreme cases, death, especially if it ruptures and bleeds. However, its survival rates can increase by immediate hospitalization and early detection. Potential blood vessel spasms need to be controlled with medications as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.