A brain aneurysm is a medical condition which occurs when a weak spot in the arterial wall of the brain bulges and fills with blood. It appears as a berry-size bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel inside the person’s brain. Mostly the brain aneurysm occurs between the brain and its surrounding thin tissues. Though brain aneurysm can sounds alarming, in most cases, people tend to live long and healthy without experiencing any symptoms of the problem. Though, in severe patients, when the brain aneurysm becomes too big or leaks or ruptures, it causes bleeding into the brain leading, known as a hemorrhagic stroke. This condition is life-threatening and will need urgent medical care. However, in the majority of cases, a brain aneurysm does not burst or cause other health problems and is usually detected during diagnostic tests.
Symptoms of a Brain Aneurysm
Symptoms of a brain aneurysm depend on the severity of the condition – ruptured, leaking or unruptured condition.
Signs of a ruptured brain aneurysm
In cases, where a brain aneurysm is ruptured, the patient will feel sudden and intense headache, along with some other symptoms such as:
- Stiffness in neck
- Blurred or double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Drooping eyelids
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion or memory problems
- Loss of balance and coordination
For patients, in who the aneurysm has caused leakage of blood in the brain, the symptoms will include extreme and chronic headache, often described as the worst headache of life. A severe brain aneurysm rupture often leads to leakage in the brain known as sentinel bleed.
Signs of an unruptured brain aneurysm
For patients, who have a small brain aneurysm, there may be no significant symptoms. However, in case the aneurysm grows larger and starts to pressurize the nearby nerves and tissues, it can cause symptoms such as the following:
- Intense, unexplainable pain behind and above one eye
- A dilated pupil
- Change in vision or double vision issue
- Numbness or loss of feeling on one side of the face
- Problems in speech
- Severe and unexplained headache
Causes of a Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms are usually common in people above the age of 40, though it is also found in children during birth. Women particularly have a higher risk of developing a brain aneurysm than men, in general.
An aneurysm is formed at the branching fork of blood vessels since these tend to be weaker sections; they appear mostly in the base of the brain and can be caused by multiple factors though none definitive.
That said, a few factors make some people more vulnerable to developing a brain aneurysm than others. These risk factors include:
- Older age
- Tobacco smoking
- Hypertension or high blood pressure problem
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Drug abuse
- Family history of aneurysms
Moreover, people with diseases related to blood or blood vessels are also at more risk of developing a brain aneurysm. Also, injury or trauma to the head, infection, and tumour or cancer in the head or neck – can severely increase the chances of a person developing an aneurysm in the brain. The above risk factors progress and develop over some time, whereas other factors which are present at birth and increase the risk of a child to develop a brain aneurysm include:
- Inherited connective tissue disorder that weakens the blood vessels
- Polycystic kidney disease that tends to form fluid-filled sacs in the kidneys and heightens the blood pressure
- Abnormally narrow aorta which limits the supply of oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body
- Cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVM) that restrict the normal blood flow of the veins and arteries of the brain
- Family history of brain aneurysm especially, first-degree relative
- Abnormalities at birth such as blood vessels tangled in the brain
Treatment of a Brain Aneurysm
In case, a patient experiences symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm, immediate medical attention must be provided because it is very likely to bleed again. The treatment involves stopping the blood flow to the aneurysm.
The procedure is risky and the eligibility will depend on the overall health condition of the patient. Some forms of treating a ruptured aneurysm include:
- Surgical clipping: In this form of surgery, a part of the skull is removed to find the aneurysm, following which a metal clip is placed on the opening to restrict its blood flow thus causing it to die on its own.
- Endovascular coiling: In this form, the surgeon inserts a flexible instrument known as a catheter through the groin to reach the compromised blood vessel that hosts the aneurysm. Once in position, tiny coil-like structures will be placed inside the aneurysm through the catheter tube. These coils successfully block the blood flow by conforming to the size of the aneurysm. This procedure is relatively safer though there is a higher chance of bleeding.
- Flow diverter surgery: In this surgical treatment for brain aneurysms, the surgeon inserts a stent made of metal mesh inside the artery of the brain; this mesh acts as a strong wall inside the vessel, diverting the blood supply from the aneurysm. This procedure is best used for aneurysms which are large and complicated.
For brain aneurysm, which is smaller in size and have not ruptured or caused any complications – certain strict lifestyle modifications can prove very useful in treating the condition.
- Avoiding drugs or other similar stimulants
- Quitting smoking or any other form of tobacco
- Following a healthy diet and exercise regime to lower blood pressure and maintain overall health
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Avoiding lifting heavy objects to refrain from raising the blood pressure abnormally
Overall, a brain aneurysm can be prevented provided on follows a healthy diet and active lifestyle aimed to maintain overall sound health.