Brain Aneurysm: A Life Threatening Disease In the United States, about 3 to 6 percent of adults have aneurysms in their brains. Fortunately, many of these are minor and are not on the verge of rupture. For every 100 adults that have brain aneurysms, only one will suffer from breakage that can bring about serious complications.
The problem is that, there is no way of predicting when an aneurysm will rupture. Brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the brain's blood vessel. When it leaks or ruptures, it causes bleeding into the brain, otherwise known as hemorrhagic stroke. A type of hemorrhagic stroke called subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs in the space in between the brain and the tissues covering it. This is the type of ruptured aneurysm that requires emergency treatment as it is life threatening.
As mentioned earlier, most cases do not cause leak or rupture, or create problems to the health. These aneurysms can be detected during medical examinations. In some patients, the doctor would advise treatment for the unruptured brain aneurysm to prevent rupture in the future.
What causes brain aneurysm?
Brain aneurysm is not inborn. It is an acquired problem that develops over time. Some studies link genetic factors to the development of this condition. However, the pattern of inheritance is still not clear.
It is also linked to other medical conditions such as:
- polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder of abnormal growth of cysts in the kidneys
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of connective tissue disorders
- Marfan's syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue
- neurofibromatosis, a disease of the nerve cell tissues that lead to bone deformities and skin changes
There are also certain environmental factors that make some people more prone to developing aneurysms in the brain. Use of tobacco or inhalation of secondhand smoke has been seen as a risk factor for ruptured aneurysm. If you're a smoker, you increase your risk of having a ruptured brain aneurysm by 10 times.
What are the signs and symptoms?
In a ruptured aneurysm, the most common symptom is sudden piercing headache. Other than that, the person will also experience stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, seizure, drooping eyelid, loss of consciousness, and confusion. When an unruptured aneurysm leaks a slight amount of blood, it would cause sudden painful headache.
For an unruptured aneurysm, you may not feel any symptom, especially if it's only small. If it's large, it may cause pain above and behind the eye, dilated pupil, double vision, numbness or paralysis of one side of the face, and drooping eyelid. Since 30 percent of ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal, it's imperative to seek medical attention if you experience extremely painful headache.
How is brain aneurysm treated?
The two common treatment methods for ruptured brain aneurysm are surgical clipping and endovascular coiling.
Surgical clipping involves a procedure of closing off an aneurysm. The doctor places a metal clip on the blood vessel that feeds the aneurysm to stop blood from flowing through it.
Endovascular coiling is less invasive. A surgeon inserts a catheter into the artery from the groin. Through this catheter, a wire is inserted to coil up inside the aneurysm to disrupt the blood flow.