What is a Brain Aneurysm?
A brain aneurysm is a lump or swelling of a blood vessel in the brain. A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture and cause bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). A ruptured brain aneurysm often occurs in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. This type of hemorrhagic stroke is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
A ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening and requires prompt medical care. However, most brain aneurysms do not rupture, cause health problems, or cause symptoms. Such aneurysms are often detected during tests for other conditions.
Causes of Brain Aneurysm
A brain aneurysm is caused by weakness in the walls of blood vessels in the brain. There are several reasons why this might occur, although the exact causes are unknown.
Your brain requires a large supply of blood which is sent through the four main blood vessels that flow to your neck and brain. These blood vessels divide into smaller vessels in the same way a tree trunk divides into branches and twigs.
Most brain aneurysms develop in blood vessels that divide and branch, since these areas tend to be weaker.
When to See a Doctor for Brain Aneurysm
If you experience sudden, severe headaches, or other symptoms that may be associated with a ruptured aneurysm, your neurologist may perform a series of diagnostic tests. It is done to determine if you have bleeding in the space between the brain and surrounding tissues or possibly other types of stroke.
If you show symptoms of a brain aneurysm that does not rupture, you will still have several tests to identify the aneurysm affecting your brain. Possible diagnostic tests may include:
- CT scan. This is the first test used to determine if you have bleeding in the brain. You may receive a dye injection that makes it easier to observe blood flow in the brain and indicates the presence of an aneurysm.
- Cerebrospinal fluid sample test. If you have had subarachnoid hemorrhage, it is likely that there are red blood cells in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spine. Your doctor may recommend a cerebrospinal fluid test if you have symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm that are not visible on the CT scan.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain, either 2D images or 3D images to detect aneurysms.
- Cerebral angiogram. During this procedure, your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a large artery and pass it through your heart to an artery in your brain.
Symptoms of Brain Aneurysm
The following are symptoms of a brain aneurysm based on the condition:
A sudden and severe headache is the main symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. Common signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:
- A sudden, severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Droopy eyelid
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred or double vision
- Confusion or unable to focus
In some cases, an aneurysm may produce a small amount of blood. This leaking can only cause:
- A sudden, severe headache
- A more severe rupture often occurs after leaking
A brain aneurysm that does not rupture may not cause symptoms, particularly if it’s small. However, a larger unruptured aneurysm can put pressure on brain and nerve tissues. This condition may cause symptoms, such as:
- Dilated pupils
- Numbness on one side of the face
- Pain above and behind one eye
- Changes in vision or double vision
Treatment for Brain Aneurysm
Below are some treatment options for brain aneurysms that your doctor may recommend:
There are two common treatment options for a ruptured brain aneurysm:
- Surgical clipping is a procedure to close up an aneurysm. Your neurosurgeon removes part of your skull to access the aneurysm, then places a small metal clip around the neck of the aneurysm to stop blood flow.
- Endovascular coiling is a less invasive procedure than surgical clipping. Your surgeon will insert a hollow plastic tube (catheter) into an artery and thread it through your body into the aneurysm.
Other Treatment Options for Ruptured Aneurysm
Other treatments for a ruptured brain aneurysm are aimed at relieving symptoms and managing complications, including:
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), can be used to treat headaches.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the walls of blood vessels
- Prevent stroke from insufficient blood flow with vasopressor injections. This is done to increase blood pressure to overcome the resistance of narrowed blood vessels.
- Anti-seizure medications can be used to treat seizures associated with ruptured aneurysms. These drugs may include levetiracetam (Keppra), phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek, others), valproic acid (Depakene) and others.
- Rehabilitation therapy. Brain damage from subarachnoid hemorrhage requires physical, speech, and occupational therapy to relearn skills.
Treatment for Unruptured Aneurysm
Surgical clipping or endovascular coiling can be used to close the unruptured brain aneurysm and help prevent future ruptures. However, in cases of unruptured aneurysms, the risks of this procedure may outweigh the potential benefits.
Your neurologist will work closely with your neurosurgeon to help determine the appropriate treatment for your condition.
Treatment Cost for Brain Aneurysm
Surgery is one of the most common treatment options for brain aneurysms. The estimated cost of a brain aneurysm surgery varies greatly – depending on your choice of hospital.
Contact Smarter Health to calculate the estimated treatment cost for a brain aneurysm at home and abroad.
Prevention of Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms are not completely preventable, but you can lower your risk by not smoking and maintaining normal blood pressure.
Quitting smoking can significantly lower your risk of developing a brain aneurysm. If you decide to quit smoking, your GP will refer you to a particular service that provides specific assistance and advice on the best way to quit smoking.
High blood pressure
Having high blood pressure can significantly increase your risk of developing a brain aneurysm. You can lower high blood pressure by:
- Implement a healthy diet with less salt and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Manage your alcohol consumption. Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 bottles of alcohol a week on a regular basis.
- Regular exercise can lower blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing a few pounds can make a big difference to your blood pressure and your overall health.
- Cut back on caffeine. You can still drink tea, coffee, and other caffeine-rich drinks as part of a balanced diet, but remember that caffeinated drinks are not your only source of daily fluids intake.
Home Remedies for Brain Aneurysm
If you have an unruptured brain aneurysm, you can lower the risk by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as:
- Do not smoke and do not use drugs. If you smoke or use recreational drugs, talk to your doctor about the appropriate treatment or programs to help you quit.
- Implement a healthy diet plan and exercise regularly. Dietary changes and exercise can help lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor to help tailor the best diet plan for you.
Make an appointment with a neurologist or neurosurgeon at home and abroad through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of a brain aneurysm.
Smarter Health’s teleconsultation services allow you to get medical treatment whenever you need it without leaving the house – thus minimizing the spread of COVID-19.