A cerebral aneurysm is a weak section of a blood vessel in the brain. This weak spot causes the vessel to bulge and eventually can rupture.
Individuals can be born with a brain aneurysm, or they can develop it later in life, perhaps due to an injury or disease. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately five percent of people in the United States have some type of brain aneurysm, but most will not experience a serious health danger.
Am aneurysm may be the berry type (smaller aneurysms, which can range from a few millimeters in size to more than a centimeter) or a giant berry aneurysm (more than two centimeters in size).
Risk factors include a family history of aneurysms, high blood pressure, and diseases such as polycystic kidney disease and coarctation of the aorta (a birth defect in which the aorta—the major artery in the heart—is abnormally narrow).
Some people with brain aneurysms will never experience symptoms from the condition. For individuals who do experience symptoms, the most common include severe headaches as blood leaks out of the weakened vessel or as a warning sign of an impending rupture; double vision or loss of vision; eye pain; and pain or stiffness in the neck.
Common signs of a rupture include a severe, sudden headache, seizures, speech impairment, confusion or sleepiness, muscle weakness, and droopy eyelids. Seek medical help immediately if you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an aneurysm or a ruptured aneurysm.
Doctors may perform eye exams, a CT scan or MRI of the head, and other tests of the brain, blood vessels, and nervous system to determine the type and extent of the problem. Treatment for a brain aneurysm involves surgery to repair the ruptured or weakened part of the blood vessel. A medical professional may advise that you have surgery in order to prevent a future rupture, even if you do not currently experience symptoms. You may also be prescribed treatment to help control headaches, seizures, and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health. (2010, September). Aneurysm in the brain. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002387/
National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health. (2009, November). Coarctation of the aorta. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001242/
By Nicole Stewart
Reviewed by Karen Schmidt, RN