What Is a Brain Aneurysm? Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options


A close-up of a brain model showing highlighted arterial pathways.

A close-up of a brain model showing highlighted arterial pathways.

Ever stumbled upon the term ‘brain aneurysm‘ and found yourself scratching your head, puzzled about what it actually means? You’re not alone! We at first also scratched our heads over this perplexing term.

But after diving into a sea of research, we found out that this condition refers to a ballooning in the wall of an artery in the brain. It may sound harmless, right? But don’t be fooled – if left unnoticed or untreated it can lead to serious complications.

So stick with us as we shed light on this mysterious condition—picking apart its causes, diagnosis procedures, treatments options and even crucial signs to look for. Who knows? This new knowledge might just help save your life—or someone else’s down the road!

Key Takeaways

  • A brain aneurysm is a balloon – like bulge in an artery in your brain. It happens when the artery wall weakens.
  • There are two main types of brain aneurysms – saccular and fusiform. Both can lead to serious health problems if they burst.
  • Certain people are more likely to get a brain aneurysm, like those over 40 years old, women more than men, smokers, or heavy drinkers.
  • Some signs of a potential brain aneurysm include severe headaches, nausea, stiff necks or changes in vision which should prompt immediate doctor consultation.
  • Brain imaging tests like CT scans or MRI help doctors discover and diagnose these conditions to plan effective treatments.

Understanding Brain Aneurysms

Close-up medical illustration of internal structure of a brain aneurysm.

Close-up medical illustration of internal structure of a brain aneurysm.

Close-up medical illustration of internal structure of a brain aneurysm.

As we delve into understanding brain aneurysms, let’s start with defining what it is. A brain aneurysm, also known as a cerebral or intracranial aneurysm, is a weakening point in the wall of a blood vessel that swells and fills with blood.

We’ll discuss two main types – saccular and fusiform aneurysms – so you understand how they are formed and why they become dangerous if not addressed timely.

Definition and Overview

A brain aneurysm, also known as a cerebral or intracranial aneurysm, is a weak spot in the wall of an artery that swells outward creating a small balloon-like bulge. This usually happens at the base of the brain, right in areas where arteries fork into smaller branches.

These are silent health threats because most don’t show symptoms until they rupture. A ruptured aneurysm quickly becomes life-threatening and requires prompt medical treatment as it can lead to severe hemorrhagic stroke by causing bleeding into space around the brain called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Regrettably, not all people experience notable warning signs before an aneurysm rupture; this situation places premium importance on risk factor management and awareness for proactive healthcare.

Types of Brain Aneurysms: Saccular and Fusiform

“Let’s explore the two most common types of brain aneurysms: saccular aneurysms and fusiform aneurysms.

  1. Saccular aneurysms, often referred to as berry aneurysms due to their shape, look like a berry hanging from a vine. They are usually located at the base of the brain in the arteries that supply blood to the cerebrum.
  2. Fusiform aneurysms, on the other hand, cause ballooning or bulging in all parts of the artery. Unlike saccular aneurysms that have a neck connecting them to the artery, fusiform aneurysms lack a distinct neck.
  3. Both types of these intracranial aneurysms can potentially rupture leading to a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.
  4. Thinning artery walls are one of primary causes leading to formation of both saccular and fusiform brain aneurysm.
  5. It is noteworthy that factors such as high blood pressure and cigarette smoking not only increase risk for formation but also for rupture of both these types of brain aneurysm.”

Who is at Risk for a Brain Aneurysm?

An elderly woman sits alone in a doctor's office looking worried.

An elderly woman sits alone in a doctor's office looking worried.

An elderly woman sits alone in a doctor's office looking worried.

Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing a brain aneurysm. Individuals over the age of 40 typically have a higher risk, and women are more likely to develop one than men.

Also, smokers should be aware that they’re vulnerable too; cigarette smoking contributes significantly both to formation and rupture of brain aneurysms.

Your lifestyle choices can impact your vulnerability as well. Regular drug use, particularly cocaine, or heavy alcohol consumption may lead to increased chances of getting this condition.

Additionally, if there’s a history in the family for cerebrovascular diseases like polycystic kidney disease or connective tissue disorders you might also have greater risks.

High blood pressure – untreated over time- is another significant factor contributing towards cerebral aneurysms. Conditions such as narrow aorta or arteriovenous malformations (AVM) in the brain further put you into the high-risk category for developing an intracranial aneurysm.

Having said that, just because you meet some risk criteria doesn’t mean doom is imminent! There are proactive measures anyone can take to keep their health on track and avoid falling victim to this silent killer called ‘brain aneurysm’.

Causes and Triggers of Brain Aneurysms

A close-up of a hand holding a medical symbol adorned heart.

A close-up of a hand holding a medical symbol adorned heart.

A close-up of a hand holding a medical symbol adorned heart.

Knowing the causes and triggers of brain aneurysms can be a crucial step in learning how to lower your risk. Here are some key factors:

  1. High Blood Pressure: Consistently elevated blood pressure damages the walls of arteries and could lead to an aneurysm.
  2. Smoking: Regular nicotine use directly contributes to the formation and rupture of brain aneurysms.
  3. Drug Abuse: Certain drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, increase heart rate and blood pressure that can possibly induce aneurysms.
  4. Genetic Predisposition: Conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Polycystic Kidney Disease, and Family history of brain aneurysms may predispose one to developing this condition.
  5. Heavy Alcohol Use: Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, a common factor contributing to the development of brain aneurysms.
  6. Aging: The risk for forming a brain aneurysm increases with age, particularly over 40 years old.
  7. Gender: Research shows women have increased susceptibility compared to men in forming these types of brain issues.
  8. Blood Infections or Arterial Wall Infections: Infections such as these can induce what’s known as Mycotic Aneurysms.
  9. Traumatic Head Injury or Head Trauma: These traumatic events may result in a direct effect on artery walls, causing aneurysm formation.
  10. Pre-existing Health Conditions like Atherosclerosis (build-up of fats, cholesterol in artery walls) or Brain Arteriovenous Malformation (abnormal connection between arteries and veins).


Symptoms of a Brain Aneurysm

Understanding the symptoms of a brain aneurysm is crucial for timely intervention. They can range from severe headaches, nausea, and neck stiffness to vision changes and seizures in more severe cases.

Discover necessary details on the varied signs pointing to ruptured, ‘leaking,’ or unruptured aneurysms within our comprehensive guide.

Ruptured Aneurysm Symptoms

Identifying the symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm can be lifesaving. Here are the key signs to look out for:

  1. Intense and sudden headache, often described as ‘the worst headache ever’.
  2. Nausea or vomiting associated with a severe headache.
  3. Stiff neck or neck pain.
  4. Sensitivity to light – bright lights may cause discomfort or pain.
  5. Blurred or double vision.
  6. Dilated pupils or one pupil appearing larger than the other.
  7. Pain above and behind one eye.
  8. Loss of consciousness, which may occur if the aneurysm leads to significant brain damage.
  9. Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures.
  10. Weakness or numbness on one side of the body.

‘Leaking’ Aneurysm Symptoms

A ‘leaking’ aneurysm refers to a brain aneurysm that bleeds just a little, hinting at the possible rupture of a more significant hemorrhage. This slight bleeding causes the following symptoms:

  1. Sudden intense headache – often described as the worst headache ever experienced
  2. Nausea or vomiting
  3. A stiff neck or pain in the neck and shoulders
  4. Sensitivity to light
  5. Blurred or double vision
  6. Seizures
  7. Drooping eyelid
  8. Loss of consciousness
  9. Confusion or change in mental function

Unruptured Aneurysm Symptoms

In our journey to understand brain aneurysms, let’s delve into the signs of unruptured aneurysms. Although many unruptured brain aneurysms don’t reveal themselves through symptoms, some people might experience noticeable changes. Here are some potential indications that an unruptured brain aneurysm might be present:

  1. Experiencing pain above and behind one eye, which can be a subtle first sign.
  2. Noticing a dilated pupil, usually on one side of the face.
  3. Witnessing vision changes or experiencing double vision unexpectedly.
  4. Feeling numbness on one side of the face without any known reason.
  5. Living with recurring headaches not related to other known health issues.
  6. Coping with short – term memory problems that weren’t there before.

When and Why to Consult a Doctor

A doctor examines a patient's head using an MRI machine.

Prompt action can save lives when dealing with a brain aneurysm. Any unusual or severe headaches, sudden changes in vision, nausea and vomiting, or abrupt shifts in consciousness should prompt immediate medical attention.

The battle against time begins the moment these symptoms present themselves; you mustn’t delay reaching out to healthcare providers.

Having a family history of cerebral aneurysms also necessitates regular check-ins with your doctor. Through recommended screenings like MRIs or CT scans based on individual risk factors, we might detect unruptured aneurysms early enough for effective intervention.

It’s crucial to prioritize health by adopting proactive measures backed by expert guidance.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Brain Aneurysms

A surgeon performing a microvascular clipping procedure on a brain aneurysm.

A surgeon performing a microvascular clipping procedure on a brain aneurysm.

A surgeon performing a microvascular clipping procedure on a brain aneurysm.

Discovering a brain aneurysm often involves various imaging tests – CT scans, MRI or cerebral angiography. Once detected, the treatment options are explored which can be medical management through drugs or surgical interventions like microvascular clipping, platinum coil embolization, and others based on your unique situation.

Diagnostic Tests

We certainly prioritize diagnosing a brain aneurysm accurately and in a timely manner. A quick diagnosis can potentially save lives and prevent long-term complications. To ensure this, several sophisticated diagnostic tests are conducted to keep you safe:

  1. Computed Tomography (CT): This highly effective imaging tool creates a detailed picture of the brain to hunt for any signs of hemorrhages, lesions or tumors.
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Doctors use this test to gain a more comprehensive view of the brain’s anatomy and any existing abnormalities.
  3. Cerebral Angiography: This powerful testing tool involves injecting a dye into the patient’s blood vessels which allows doctors to better identify aneurysms on X-ray images.
  4. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis: In some situations, we may examine your cerebrospinal fluid for traces of blood or other substances indicative of an aneurysm.

Available Treatments

Brain aneurysm treatment aims at preventing rupture or managing symptoms in individuals. Here are some of the medical procedures and therapies used:

  • Microvascular Clipping: This surgical procedure involves placing a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm to stop blood flow.
  • Endovascular Coiling: A less invasive medical procedure that includes inserting a catheter into an artery, guiding it to the aneurysm and releasing platinum coils to stop blood flow.
  • Flow Diversion Stents: These are devices placed in the parent artery to divert blood flow away from the aneurysm, promoting its shrinkage over time.
  • Shunts: In cases where cerebrospinal fluid has accumulated in the brain following a ruptured aneurysm, shunts help drain this fluid reducing intracranial pressure.

The Prognosis for Brain Aneurysms

In this section, we delve into the prognosis for brain aneurysms – from survival and recovery odds to life adjustments required when living with a brain aneurysm.

Survival and Recovery Chances

Survival and recovery from a brain aneurysm is often unpredictable. Among those who experience a rupture, about 50% don’t survive past three months due to complications. The condition also leaves roughly two-thirds of survivors with permanent brain damage.

Factors like age, health conditions, the location and size of the aneurysm greatly influence these outcomes.

Timing proves vital in managing brain aneurysms. An early diagnosis increases chances for successful intervention significantly before it ruptures or causes other serious complications.

Moreover, post-treatment plans usually introduce rehabilitative therapies aiming at restoring normal life activities as much as possible but again such measures depend largely on individual circumstances including overall physical health prior to rupture event and patient’s willingness for prolonged recoveries.

Living with a Brain Aneurysm

A diagnosis of a brain aneurysm might feel daunting, but it’s not a forecast for certain disaster. Small unruptured aneurysms typically pose less risk and may require only regular monitoring instead of immediate surgery.

Adjusting to this reality can be challenging yet manageable with the right resources and support system in place. Constant communication with healthcare professionals helps ensure necessary adjustments to lifestyle changes if needed, including daily medication for blood pressure management or quitting habits like smoking to decrease the odds of rupture.

Regular check-ups are crucial as they help keep track of the aneurysm’s size and growth over time which directly affects treatment decisions. Therefore, living with a brain aneurysm involves active participation in one’s own health care journey while relying on expert advice.

It is essential to maintain both physical and mental well-being by staying active, eating balanced meals, following prescribed medications routine diligently, managing stress adequately through relaxation techniques such as yoga or mindfulness-based practices.

Prevention Strategies for Brain Aneurysms

We always encourage embracing a healthier lifestyle, as it can significantly impact the potential of developing a brain aneurysm. Adapting certain habits could be a defensive wall against the condition:

  1. Give up smoking: Since smoking is directly linked with high blood pressure and weakens arteries in the brain, choosing to quit can be an essential prevention strategy.
  2. Maintain healthy blood pressure: Monitoring your blood pressure levels regularly and taking steps to control hypertension can reduce your risk.
  3. Limit consumption of alcohol: Heavy alcohol use has been pin-pointed as one factor that can lead to a brain aneurysm. Reducing daily intake is crucial in preventing such scenarios.
  4. Abstain from drug misuse: Habitual usage of recreational drugs such as cocaine has been connected with increased probability of developing this condition.
  5. Regular exercise: Engaging in moderate physical activities like walking, swimming or cycling for about 30 minutes each day not only boosts overall health but also contributes to the strength and elasticity of blood vessels.
  6. Balanced diet: Eating foods low in sodium and saturated fats but high in fiber may help keep blood vessels healthy.
  7. Regular screening: If family history or other risk factors are raising concerns, it’s wise to talk with your healthcare provider about getting regular screenings for possible brain aneurysms.


Understanding brain aneurysms can help us be alert and act quickly when symptoms appear. With a firm grasp of causes, symptoms and treatment options, we’re better equipped to tackle potential issues head-on.

Let’s keep ourselves informed and conscious about our health at all times!


1. What is a brain aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a bulge in the arterial wall of the base of the skull, which may potentially rupture and cause severe health problems.

2. What are some symptoms of a brain aneurysm?

Symptoms may include pain above and behind the eye, change in vision or double vision, numbness on one side of face and even paralysis in extreme cases.

3. How do doctors diagnose a leaking or sentinel bleed from a brain aneurysm?

Doctors use specific screening methods to detect signs like intracerebral hemorrhage or hydrocephalus indicating possible leaks from an aneurysm.

4. Who is at higher risk for developing brain aneurysms?

Individuals over 40 years old with conditions such as inherited connective tissue disorders, coarctation of the aorta or high sodium levels in their blood are more susceptible according to Mayo Clinic studies.

5. Are there any treatment options available for patients with infected mycotic aneurysms?

Yes! Treatments can range from antiseizure drugs and calcium channel-blocking drugs to flow diversion devices during surgery depending upon severity assessed by specialists at institutions such as NINDS.

6. Can genetics influence the tendency to develop a Brain Aneurism?

Current research includes Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) focusing on regions like Chromosome 9p have showcased significant correlations between genetic factors and predisposition towards this condition.

Through “Our Healthy Brains,” Brent Stansell invites you into a world where understanding the brain is not just for scientists but for every individual committed to leading a fuller, healthier life.