Brain Aneurysm: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

A brain aneurysm, similar to a berry hanging on a stem in shape, is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain’s arterial wall. It is also called intracranial aneurysm or cerebral aneurysm.

If a brain aneurysm ruptures, it will result in potentially life-threatening symptoms, including a hemorrhagic stroke, brain damage and even death without prompt medical treatment. However, not all aneurysms will rupture. Only about 30,000 of people in the United States experience ruptured aneurysms each year, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Treatment for an unruptured brain aneurysm may be appropriate in some cases and may prevent a rupture in the future.

It is estimated that the incidence rate of an unruptured brain aneurysm is 2 % in the United States, with an average of 30,000 people suffering from a rupture every year.

Causes

Even the causes of brain aneurysm have not been identified fully, a wild range of related factors may increase the risk.

Risk factors that develop over the person’s lifetime:

  • Older age
  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Drug abuse, particularly the use of cocaine
  • Heavy coffee, soda or alcohol consumption
  • Excessive exercise
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Intense angering
  • Startling
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Traumatic brain injuries or certain blood infections

Risk factors present at birth:

  • Inherited connective tissue disorders
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Abnormally narrow aorta
  • Cerebral arteriovenous malformation (brain AVM)
  • Family history of brain aneurysm, particularly a first-degree relative, such as a parent, brother, sister, or child

Symptoms

The symptoms of a brain aneurysm are variable and occasionally relate to the affected brain area. However, painful headache is the most common symptom that some patients suffer from. More concretely, the symptoms and warning signs of an aneurysm vary based on whether it’s ruptured or not.

Symptoms of an unruptured aneurysm include:

  • headache or pain behind or above the eye, which can be mild or severe
  • blurred or double vision
  • dizziness
  • visual deficits
  • seizures

Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:

  • sudden, severe headache
  • neck pain or stiffness
  • blurry or double vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • drooping eyelid
  • confusion or mental impairment
  • trouble walking or dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • seizure (convulsion)
  • loss of consciousness

Other symptoms include:

  • focal neurological complaints
  • cardiac dysrhythmias
  • trouble breathing
  • nosebleeds
  • dilated pupils
  • stroke-like symptoms (loss of speech, loss of sense of smell, paralysis of muscles on one side of the body, or other movement defects)

Diagnosis

An unruptured brain aneurysm doesn’t require imaging tests, and they are often recommended to people who have

  • A family history of brain aneurysms
  • A congenital disorder that increases the risk of a brain aneurysm

Available tests include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT)

CT scans take several X-rays and then provide a 3-D image of the brain on a computer.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

MRI scans work by scanning the brain with radio waves and magnetic fields and creating images.

  • A spinal tap

A spinal tap draws cerebrospinal fluid from the back with a needle, to heck for signs of bleeding in the brain.

  • Cerebral angiograms

Cerebral angiograms can check for bleeding and detect any abnormalities in the brain arteries.

Treatment

Surgery

Surgery is an ideal choice for getting rid of an accessible aneurysm and preventing further growth of a rupture. Commonly recommended surgeries include:

  • Surgical clipping
  • endovascular coiling

Medications

The following is a list of medications to treat people with ruptured aneurysms:

  • pain relievers to treat headache pain
  • calcium channel blockers to prevent calcium from entering cells of the blood vessel walls
  • anti-seizure medications treat seizures related to a ruptured aneurysm
  • intravenous injections of vasopressors to prevent stroke from insufficient blood flow

Lifestyle changes

Several lifestyle changes can help to manage aneurysms, including:

  • quitting smoking
  • eating a lot of healthy food, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products
  • exercising regularly, but not excessively
  • managing high blood pressure or high cholesterol

Keywords: brain aneurysm.

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