Brain aneurysm: 5 things to know about this condition which can come without signs
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Have you ever shrugged off a headache, thinking it’s just another passing discomfort? While some headaches can be easily alleviated, there are certain cases where urgent attention is crucial. One such condition is the rupture of a cerebral aneurysm, also known as a brain aneurysm. In this article, we will delve into the depths of this condition and uncover five essential things you need to know.
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1. Unveiling Brain Aneurysms
Brain aneurysms are weak spots that develop in the arteries of the brain over time, forming bulges. These bulges resemble balloon-like structures on the blood vessel walls. With the continuous flow of blood, the aneurysm gradually expands, causing the arterial wall to become dangerously thin until it eventually ruptures.
2. Warning Signs and Symptoms
Ironically, brain aneurysms often remain silent until they rupture. When this occurs, individuals experience a sudden and severe headache unlike any they have ever encountered before. The pain intensifies rapidly, reaching its peak within seconds. Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, increased pain when moving the head, intense pain in the back of the head, or a sensation akin to being struck on the back or head.
In severe cases, loss of consciousness, limb weakness, speech impairment, and even sudden death can transpire. Due to its frequent and intense onset, some refer to it as a “thunderclap headache” or a headache from a realm previously unexplored.
3. Vulnerability to the Condition
While anyone can develop a brain aneurysm, certain factors make individuals more susceptible. Those with high blood pressure, a genetic predisposition (though rare), smokers, and individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 are at an increased risk of developing a brain aneurysm. Pediatric patients, though rare, can also be affected.
4. Diagnosis and Management
Recognizing that a brain aneurysm is not an ordinary headache is vital for seeking immediate medical attention. The significance lies in the fact that a ruptured aneurysm can result in hemorrhaging.
Survival after one hemorrhage is possible, but the risk of re-bleeding is always present. Urgent treatment is necessary to secure and close the aneurysm. Medical professionals employ CT scans or MRI scans to detect blood leakage in the brain during severe headaches. While a CT scan is typically sufficient, an MRI scan may be necessary for smaller amounts of blood. In case of suspected leakage, an angiography of the brain is performed to visualize the blood vessels and identify the aneurysm, manifesting as an outpouching or balloon.
5. Treatment Options
Traditional treatment involves surgical clipping, where an aneurysm is identified, and a clip is placed at its base to obstruct blood flow and prevent rupture. This procedure ensures the continuous flow of blood through the unaffected vessel and is known as surgical clipping.
However, recent advancements in aneurysm treatment have introduced an alternative approach called Endovascular Rescue Therapy. This minimally invasive procedure involves the insertion of a catheter into the brain, allowing for the removal of clots that may cause strokes, without the need for skull opening.
Understanding the threat posed by brain aneurysms is essential for early detection and timely intervention. By recognizing the signs, taking preventive steps, and seeking immediate medical attention, we can ensure our well-being and protect ourselves from this silent adversary. Stay informed, stay safe!