Symptoms of a leaking brain aneurysm

Written by genevieve van wyden
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Cerebral aneurysms are a serious, potentially fatal condition. Most aneurysms are asymptomatic, which means they do not cause symptoms at all for the sufferer. Those that do cause noticeable problems are the "leaking" aneurysms, which warn of a much larger, more catastrophic rupture in the near future.

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Aneurysm Described

A brain aneurysm is a weakened area in an artery in the brain. This weakened area will bulge or "balloon" out, and it could burst, resulting in a medical emergency. This aneurysm can put pressure on surrounding brain tissue or on a nerve within the brain. Even if the patient is experiencing no symptoms at all, his doctor may order treatment in order to prevent a future, potentially fatal rupture.

Symptoms

When a cerebral aneurysm begins to "leak" a small amount of blood, the only symptom the patient will experience is the "worst headache of my life." When this headache develops, it is called a "sentinel" headache because it is providing a warning of a pending rupture, which may take place weeks or even days after the sentinel headache developed.

Warning Signs

If the aneurysm has not been detected during physical exams and it has not yet ruptured, it can cause symptoms if it presses on vital areas within the patient's brain. She can experience other headaches, vision problems, eye pain and dizziness. Other signs can include pain above and behind the eye, paralysis on one side of the face, dilated pupils, weakness and numbness. The patient may also notice she has a drooping eyelid.

Prevention

It is not possible to keep a cerebral aneurysm from forming. However, once one has been diagnosed, the patient needs to control his blood pressure and keep it within normal limits. This can be done by avoiding stimulating drugs and stopping smoking. Other remedies include eating a healthy diet and instituting an exercise program (under the doctor's supervision), limiting caffeine intake, avoiding physical straining--as in lifting heavy objects, which causes a sudden increase in blood pressure--and a cautious use of aspirin or other drugs, which decreases the ability of blood to clot.

Treatments

Two options involve surgery. Microvascular decompression is a clipping or cutting off of blood to the aneurysm. A small clip is placed on the neck of the aneurysm, thereby cutting off its blood flow. The second surgical intervention is called "occluding," which means blocking the entire artery that has the aneurysm. This is done when there is damage to that artery and a bypass is performed, surgically grafting another small artery section to the artery.

Non-surgical options include endovascular embolisation. Balloons or coils are introduced into the aneurysm, thereby filling the aneurysm and cutting off its circulation. Blood clots in the aneurysm, which destroys it.

Medications to alleviate pain include acetaminophen. Calcium channel blockers can be prescribed to prevent vasospasm (widening and narrowing of blood vessels). If the patient is experiencing seizures, his doctor can prescribe anti-seizure medications.

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