Posted on September 23, 2022
A brain aneurysm is a weak spot in a brain blood vessel that balloons out over time and has the potential to rupture and cause internal bleeding in the brain. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm, of which an estimated 30,000 rupture each year. Anyone can have a brain aneurysm, but risks are higher for women, drug users, tobacco users, diabetics, and those with high blood pressure. Other risk factors include those with a family history of brain aneurysms, as well as natural aging, and genetics.
A large number of individuals with a brain aneurysm are not aware of it and there are often no warning signs before it ruptures, so it is often called the "silent killer." Alternatively, unruptured brain aneurysms may cause symptoms including abnormal pupil dilation, double vision, drooping eyelid, a hard time speaking, or a headache behind one eye. While these symptoms can have other causes, the possible cause of a potentially life-threatening brain aneurysm should be enough reason for an appointment to get checked out by your doctor.
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency and can cause a multitude of warning signs such as dizziness, loss of concentration or confusion, neck pain, nausea and vomiting, double or blurred vision, loss of sensation, sensitivity to light, loss of balance and coordination, and headaches (which some have described as “the worst headache of their lives”). The fatality rate for a ruptured brain aneurysm is 40-50%, with 15-25% of these not living to reach the hospital. Of those who survive, about two-thirds suffer a permanent neurological deficit.
Most brain aneurysms don’t rupture, create health problems, or cause symptoms, and are often discovered during testing for other conditions. Patients who have been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm can lead relatively normal lives, but are cautioned to avoid excessive exercise, heavy lifting, and sports with a risk of head trauma. They are also encouraged to maintain healthy blood pressure and avoid smoking and drug use. Treatment options are also evolving from open brain surgery to minimally invasive surgery that can repair the aneurysm from the inside with stents or coils. Treatment is highly individualized based on the patient’s age and other health factors, as well as the aneurysm’s size, condition, and location.
The bottom line to avoiding a brain aneurysm sounds very similar to avoiding a lot of other health problems:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Engage in moderate exercise regularly (avoid heavy lifting)
- Don’t use drugs (especially stimulant drugs)
- Avoid excessive alcohol use
- Maintain healthy blood pressure