Brain Aneurysm Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Brain Aneurysm Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies


What is a brain aneurysm?


A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in a brain artery that develops where the blood vessel wall is weakened. Visualize the artery as a garden hose. If the rubber in a section of the hose becomes thinner, the hose will develop a balloon-like bulge at that point. While the hose may still work, water pressure could cause leaks in the stretched-out hose wall or even cause the hose to burst. Similarly, a brain aneurysm may allow blood to leak into the subarachnoid space around the brain, causing damage to brain cells. The brain aneurysm also may rupture, causing a serious and perhaps fatal stroke.


Brain Aneurysm Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies
Brain Aneurysm

Causes include blood vessel defects at birth, a blockage or thinning of a blood vessel opening, infection or head trauma.

Diseases associated with brain aneurysms include polycystic kidney disease, fibromuscular dysplasia, arteriovenous malformations, connective tissue disorders, other family members with brain aneurysms, and Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome.

Most brain aneurysms, however, don't rupture, create health problems or cause symptoms. Such aneurysms are often detected during tests for other conditions. Treatment for an unruptured brain aneurysm may be appropriate in some cases and may prevent a rupture in the future.

Causes and rick factors of a brain aneurysm


Brain aneurysms are caused by a weakness in the walls of blood vessels in the brain. There are several reasons why this may happen, although an exact cause is not always clear.

The brain requires a large supply of blood delivered via four main blood vessels that run up the neck and into the brain. These blood vessels divide into smaller and smaller vessels in the same way that a trunk of a tree divides into branches and twigs.

Most aneurysms develop at the points where the blood vessels divide and branch off, because these areas are often weaker.

The following risk factors may increase your risk of developing an aneurysm or, if you already have an aneurysm, may increase your risk of it rupturing:

  • Family history. People who have a family history of brain aneurysms are more likely to have an aneurysm than those who don't.
  • Previous aneurysm. People who have had a brain aneurysm are more likely to have another.
  • Gender. Women are more likely to develop a brain aneurysm or to suffer a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Race. African Americans are more likely than whites to have a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Body tissue disorders. Your risk of developing a brain aneurysm can be higher if you have a condition that affects your body tissues, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome. This is because these conditions can sometimes cause weaknesses in the walls of your blood vessels.
  • Hypertension. The risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage is greater in people with a history of high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Smoking. In addition to being a cause of hypertension, the use of cigarettes may greatly increase the chances of a brain aneurysm rupturing.
  • Coarctation of the aorta. People with coarctation of the aorta are also at an increased risk of developing a brain aneurysm. Coarctation of the aorta is the term used to describe narrowing of the main artery in the body (the aorta), which is present from birth (congenital). It is a common type of congenital heart disease.
  • Age. Your risk of developing a brain aneurysm increases as you get older, with most cases diagnosed in people over 40. This may be because the walls of the blood vessels weaken over time due to the constant pressure from blood flowing through them.
  • Cocaine abuse. Cocaine abuse is another risk factor for brain aneurysms. Cocaine can inflame the walls of the blood vessels and raise your blood pressure. The combination of these two factors increases your risk of developing a brain aneurysm.

What are the symptoms of Brain Aneurysm?


Most brain aneurysms cause no symptoms and may only be discovered during tests for another, usually unrelated, condition. In other cases, an unruptured aneurysm will cause problems by pressing on areas in the brain. When this happens, the person may suffer from severe headaches, blurred vision, changes in speech, and neck pain, depending on what areas of the brain are affected and how bad the aneurysm is.

Symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm often come on suddenly. If you have any of the following symptoms or notice them in someone you know, call other emergency services right away:

  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • Neck pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness.
  • Seizures.

When to see a doctor


A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency. In about 30 percent of cases, ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal.

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop a:

  • Sudden, extremely severe headache
If you're with someone who complains of a sudden, severe headache or who loses consciousness or has a seizure, call your local emergency number.

Is a brain aneurysm a serious health risk?


The biggest risk is that the brain aneurysm will rupture and leak blood into the space surrounding the brain, causing a stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. A ruptured brain aneurysm requires emergency medical treatment as the likelihood of death or disability is high.

Ten to 20 percent of those who have a subarachnoid hemorrhage will die before getting to a hospital. Of those who survive, approximately 30 percent will have moderate to severe disabilities. Though not all brain aneurysms rupture, it is impossible to predict whether or when a rupture may occur.

How is a brain aneurysm diagnosed?


Because unruptured brain aneurysms often do not cause any symptoms, many are discovered in people who are being treated for a different condition.

If your doctor believes that you have a brain aneurysm, you may have the following tests:

Computed tomography (CT) scan


A CT scan can help identify bleeding in the brain. Sometimes a lumbar puncture may be used if your doctor suspects that you have a ruptured cerebral aneurysm with a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) scan


CTA is a more precise method of evaluating blood vessels than a standard CT scan. CTA uses a combination of CT scanning, special computer techniques, and contrast material (dye) injected into the blood to produce images of blood vessels.

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)


Similar to a CTA, MRA uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. As with CTA and cerebral angiography, a dye is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly.

Cerebral angiogram


During this X-ray test, a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and moved up through the vessel into the brain. A dye is then injected into the cerebral artery. As with the above tests, the dye allows any problems in the artery, including aneurysms, to be seen on the X-ray. Although this test is more invasive and carries more risk than the above tests, it is the best way to locate small (less than 5 mm) brain aneurysms.

How is Brain Aneurysm treated?

Surgery


There are two common treatment options for a ruptured brain aneurysm.

  • Surgical clipping is a procedure to close off an aneurysm. The neurosurgeon removes a section of your skull to access the aneurysm and locates the blood vessel that feeds the aneurysm. Then he or she places a tiny metal clip on the neck of the aneurysm to stop blood flow to it.
  • Endovascular coiling is a less invasive procedure than surgical clipping. The surgeon inserts a hollow plastic tube (catheter) into an artery, usually in your groin, and threads it through your body to the aneurysm. He or she then uses a guide wire to push a soft platinum wire through the catheter and into the aneurysm. The wire coils up inside the aneurysm, disrupts the blood flow and causes blood to clot. This clotting essentially seals off the aneurysm from the artery.
Both procedures pose risks, particularly bleeding in the brain or loss of blood flow to the brain. The endovascular coil is less invasive and may be initially safer, but it also has a higher risk of subsequent re-bleeding, and additional procedures may be necessary. Your neurosurgeon will make a recommendation based on the size of the brain aneurysm, your ability to undergo surgery and other factors.

Other treatments for Brain Aneurysm


Other treatments for ruptured brain aneurysms are aimed at relieving symptoms and managing complications.

  • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), may be used to treat headache pain.
  • Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering cells of the blood vessel walls. These medications may lessen vasospasm, the erratic narrowing of blood vessels that may be a complication of a ruptured aneurysm. One of these medications, nimodipine, has been shown to reduce the risk of delayed brain injury caused by insufficient blood flow after subarachnoid hemorrhage of a ruptured aneurysm.
  • Interventions to prevent stroke from insufficient blood flow include intravenous injections of a drug called a vasopressor, which elevates blood pressure to overcome the resistance of narrowed blood vessels. An alternative intervention to prevent stroke is angioplasty. In this procedure, a surgeon uses a catheter to inflate a tiny balloon that expands a narrowed blood vessel in the brain. A catheter may also be used to deliver to the brain a drug called a vasodilator, which causes blood vessels to expand.
  • Anti-seizure medications may be used to treat seizures related to a ruptured aneurysm. These medications include levetiracetam (Keppra), phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek, others) and valproic acid (Depakene).
  • Ventricular or lumbar draining catheters and shunt surgery can lessen pressure on the brain from excess cerebrospinal fluid (hydrocephalus) associated with a ruptured aneurysm. A catheter may be placed in the spaces filled with fluid inside of the brain (ventricles) or surrounding your brain and spinal cord to drain the excess fluid into an external bag. Sometimes, it may then be necessary to introduce a shunt system — which consists of a flexible silicone rubber tube (shunt) and a valve — that creates a drainage channel starting in your brain and ending in your abdominal cavity.
  • Rehabilitative therapy. Damage to the brain from a subarachnoid hemorrhage usually results in the need for physical, speech and occupational therapy to relearn skills.

Treating unruptured brain aneurysms


Surgical clipping or endovascular coiling can be used to seal off an unruptured brain aneurysm and help prevent a future rupture. However, the known risks of the procedures may outweigh the potential benefit.

A neurologist and a neurosurgeon can help you determine whether the treatment is appropriate for you. Factors that they would consider in making a recommendation include:

  • The size and location of the aneurysm
  • Your age and general health
  • Family history of ruptured aneurysms
  • Congenital conditions that increase the risk of a ruptured aneurysm
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about medication to manage the condition. If you have a brain aneurysm, proper control of blood pressure may lower the risk of rupture.

Brain aneurysm - Prevention and Home Remedies

Lifestyle changes that may be beneficial in preventing a brain aneurysm include:

Don't smoke or use recreational drugs. If you smoke or use recreational drugs, talk to your doctor about strategies or an appropriate treatment program to help you quit.

Eat a healthy diet and exercise. Changes in diet and exercise can help lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about changes appropriate for you.

Limit caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.

Avoid straining. Sudden, forceful and sustained exertion of the type you expend when you lift heavy weights can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.

Be cautious of aspirin use. Talk to your doctor before taking aspirin or other drugs that inhibit blood clotting, because they may increase blood loss if you do have a ruptured aneurysm.