Brain Aneurysm: 3 million cases per year

Brain aneurysms, also known as an intracranial aneurysms, develop from the thinning of artery walls. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart and off to the rest of the body.  When these weaknesses appear in the blood vessels that supply blood the brain, they can balloon, fill with blood, and in rare cases rupture and cause a stroke.  Brain aneurysms are considered common in the United States, as this country sees 200,000 to 3 million cases per year.

Brain Aneurysm

An aneurysm that has not ruptured is usually asymptomatic, or causes no symptoms. When an aneurysm ruptures, the main symptom that sufferers face is a sudden, severe headache.  This severe headache can be coupled with dizziness and nausea that affects the entire body.

Ruptured aneurysm

As mentioned, a sudden, severe headache (or a thunderclap headache) is the key symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. Most people would describe it as unbearable. 

It is also common to experience the following with a ruptured brain aneurysm:

·         Bleeding

·         light sensitivity

·         headache

·         stiff neck

·         thunderclap headache (strong and sudden)

·         vomiting

·         nausea

·         Blurred or double vision

·         A drooping eyelid

·         Seizure

·         Loss of consciousness

·         Confusion


If the aneurysm is still unruptured, preventative treatment and treatment through medication is possible.  These medications are to control blood pressure and thin the blood.  If, on the other hand, an aneurysm leaks or ruptures, it can cause bleeding into the brain – leading to a hemorrhagic stroke.  When aneurysms rupture, it happens most commonly in the space between the brain and the tissues covering the brain. If an aneurysm ruptures, the result becomes life threatening and requires medical attention and treatment as soon as possible. Luckily, most brain aneurysms stay intact and do not rupture. If discovered, these unruptured aneurysms can be treated in order to prevent a rupture at some time in the future.

Unruptured aneurysm

An unruptured brain aneurysm can have no symptoms at all, which makes it particularly scary.  This is especially true of the aneurysm is small.  When the unruptured aneurysm is larger, however, this can press into the cranial nerves and brain tissues causing some of the following symptoms to be aware of:  

·         Pain above and behind an eye

·         Dilated pupil

·         Change in vision or double vision

·         Numbness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the face

·         A drooping eyelid

'Leaking' aneurysm

In some cases, an aneurysm is neither ruptured nor unruptured, but leaking.  That is it may leak a slight amount of blood and seep into the brain.  This leaking can cause the distinct sudden and extreme headache we have discussed throughout this article.  A leaking aneurysm is almost always followed by a more severe rupture, so it is crucial it get treated immediately.

They key take away is to seek immediate medical attention if you have a sudden and severe headache, unlike anything you have ever experienced in the past. It could be an indicator of something much more serious than just a headache.