When a weak area in a blood vessel’s wall balloons out, it’s called an aneurysm. Because the wall is weak, with pressure it can burst, allowing blood to leak out into the surrounding tissues, damaging or destroying them. A brain (cerebral) aneurysm is one that occurs in a blood vessel within the brain. If it ruptures, it’s a life-threatening medical emergency, as it can potentially lead to stroke, brain damage, and even death.
All brain aneurysms can potentially rupture, but many never do. However, the aneurysm may still cause symptoms if it presses on surrounding nerves or brain tissue. There are no exact numbers for people who develop aneurysms because they don’t always produce symptoms, but a group of scientific papers suggests between 3-5% of Americans will develop one in their lifetime. Some 30,000 US adults suffer a ruptured aneurysm every year.
At Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas, multi-fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Glickman and his team diagnose and treat brain aneurysms at their Nevada office. Because the potential exists for life-threatening complications, they want their patients to be able to recognize symptoms so they can seek medical help and prevent a rupture from happening.
Aneurysms generally form at branch points in arteries, as these are the weakest areas. Occasionally, you’re born with one, usually because an abnormality forms during development, though most begin in those older than 40.
In many cases, aneurysms develop due to genetic factors. Other risk factors occur due to lifestyle choices, including:
Atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”), which is caused by high fat and cholesterol levels that leave deposits on the artery walls, increases the risk of developing a fusiform aneurysm, one that protrudes on all sides.
Less common risk factors include head trauma, a brain tumor, or an arterial wall infection.
As we mentioned, not all aneurysms produce symptoms or rupture. The size, location, and growth rate can all affect the risk of a rupture, as can underlying medical conditions.
Most brain aneurysms don’t cause symptoms until they either grow very large or rupture. A large aneurysm that grows steadily can press on surrounding tissues and nerves causing:
If an aneurysm ruptures, you develop a sudden and extremely severe headache that feels like the worst headache of your life. You may also develop:
If you experience any of the large aneurysm symptoms, schedule an urgent appointment at Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas. If you experience any of the rupture symptoms, call 911 or go to your local ER. The sooner the bleed is controlled, the less damage it can do.
Dr. Glickman treats patients with unruptured and ruptured cerebral aneurysms, but his goal is to provide treatment before a rupture occurs.
To prevent a ruptured brain aneurysm, he may recommend:
In some cases, lifestyle changes that include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking can lower your risk of a ruptured aneurysm.
If your aneurysm ruptures, treatment depends on the severity of the bleed, and can range from medications to stent implantation to physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a brain aneurysm, don’t wait to make an appointment with Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas. Call our office at 702-929-8242 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Glickman or book online. Time is of the essence.