Are you familiar with the term aneurysm? It refers to a bulge in a blood vessel. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but aneurysms can be serious, brain aneurysms especially. They can lead to other issues, including stroke, or hemorrhaging, both of which can easily become life-threatening. For that reason, it’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of an aneurysm. If you make yourself familiar with the symptoms, it could very well mean the difference between life and death. If you think you have a brain aneurysm, speak to a medical professional immediately.
No one likes headaches, certainly, but most people also discount them from being serious, aside from maybe migraines. They are, however, sometimes the indication of a serious problem, including aneurysms. Different types of headaches come with different symptoms and result from different problems. Aneurysms are no exception here. Generally, aneurysms cause significantly powerful headaches, ones that hurt much worse than other head pains. This pain is so intense because blood is bursting from a blood vessel, and it is leaking onto the outer layers of the brain. This pain tends to come on rather quickly, and it is incredibly powerful.
Have you ever had a headache so bad that it messed with your vision? Chances are, an aneurysm will contribute to that. When an aneurysm occurs, even before it bursts, it begins to put pressure on everything around it. This is part of the headache, and it can also cause eye trouble because the increasing girth comes into contact with the nerves of the eye. This will lead to problems with your vision and eyelids, otherwise known as ptosis. While there are a number of conditions associated with ptosis, almost all of them are serious, involve nerve interference or damage.
Ptosis and headaches are not the only symptoms. You may find yourself feeling weak or numb on only one half of your face or body. This is a telltale sign that something is seriously wrong- usually a clear sign of stroke. Aneurysms can cause strokes in two ways- on the one hand, their bulges can block specific pathways within the brain, making it impossible for blood to get to where it needs to go most. On the other, if the aneurysm leaks or bursts, it could release clots that then block up those pathways, ultimately leading to the same result.
Not all of the symptoms of a brain aneurysm happen in the brain. Gastrointestinal issues are a sign that you’re likely to overlook. The pressure brought on by a brain aneurysm can contribute to sudden bouts of nausea or vomiting, believe it or not. Such symptoms come as a result of the bleeding and the headache upstairs. Along with nausea, there are some other common symptoms you might expect to see when it comes to stomachaches and headaches: dizziness and sensitivity to light, or a stiff neck. In some cases, you may find yourself a victim of diarrhea as well.
14. Risk Factors
Because strokes and brain aneurysms are very serious, timing is of the essence. Knowing the warning signs can certainly make the difference between life and death. However, being aware of the signs can only do so much good; it is better to understand the risk factors before an issue arises, and if possible, to make the appropriate lifestyle changes to avoid becoming a statistic. There are a number of risk factors that increase the odds of experiencing a brain aneurysm: controlling these factors can improve not only your likelihood of avoiding an aneurysm but also your overall quality of life.
Smoking can contribute to aneurysms and therefore strokes, largely in part to the effect smoking has on one’s blood pressure. Smoking is also culpable in other ways; cigarettes have numerous carcinogens or substances that create or encourage cancer, in them. Cancerous growths can contribute to aneurysms as well. Aside from those, smoking generally contributes to poorer body health and quality of life. It is the leading cause of various lung diseases, including COPD. Because shortness of breath is one of its most significant symptoms, COPD can interfere with exercise, which is one of the most significant influences on keeping yourself healthy.
12. High Blood Pressure
Because aneurysms essentially result from swelling blood vessels, it’s easy to see how high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, can contribute to aneurysms. Naturally, then, it makes sense to lower blood pressure as much as possible. A diet high in fats and salts contributes to hypertension: fat may build up in the arteries, and salt may make them less flexible. These both force the heart to work harder moving blood through the body. Increasing water and potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake can help prevent hypertension. Regular exercise can play a part too, so be sure to stay active.Related: 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
While you can quit smoking and take measures to cut down on your blood pressure (and you should do both), unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about the genetics you received. If your family history has many cases of aneurysms in it, then you can assume you are at greater risk of having one yourself. This is especially true if someone in your immediate family (parent, sibling) has experienced one. Other factors, like a history of high blood pressure, can likewise affect your odds. What’s important is avoiding stress, and speak to your medical professional about options you can take.
We’re all getting older. The aging we can’t prevent, but we can do our best to age well. The good news is, blood pressure tends to decrease naturally in old age, so that may be slightly less of a factor. When it comes to aging well, a lot of that comes down to diet and exercise. Both of these can have significant impacts on your body, because exercise will keep your body and mind sharp, improving the functions of your organs and your cognitive processes. A healthy diet will include antioxidants, which reduce the wear and tear your cells receive.
Generally speaking, aneurysms are more of a problem for women than for men. In fact, three women experience aneurysms for every two men that do. Unfortunately, on top of that, the aneurysms they do experience are also worse than those of men. This increased risk comes primarily as a result of bodily interactions and hormonal changes that affect women, such as pregnancy and menopause. They also have a higher risk of contributing factors, including irregular heartbeat, migraines, and cerebrovascular disorders (disorders dealing with the lining of the brain). While age is a larger factor, gender also plays a significant role.
8. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome refers to a phenomenon where one has exceptional elasticity and flexibility in their body parts. Most commonly, a person’s joints, skin, and blood vessels are heavily affected. At first, this might sound like a good thing, but it’s not without its drawbacks. The elastic nature of the skin, for example, makes it vulnerable to bruising, while joints and bones can dislocate. As for the blood vessels, becoming too elastic weakens them, which makes it possible for them to stretch out of shape, pressuring the surrounding tissue, resulting in an aneurysm, or even rupturing, resulting in a stroke.
7. Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD for short, refers to an incurable illness that causes cysts to form in the kidneys. Too many of these cysts will hamper the function of the kidneys, and they may even grow in other parts of the body. Much like other growths, they can apply pressure to the surrounding tissues, negatively affecting nearby blood vessels and driving up blood pressure. This increased pressure can weaken the blood vessel walls, and create an aneurysm. If someone in your family has PKD, it’s possible that you have it as well. Regular checkups will give you more options.Related: Maintaining Kidney Health
6. Marfan Syndrome
Marfan syndrome is a disorder that affects much of the body’s connective tissue. Marfan syndrome can cause defects in much of the body’s tissues, including blood vessels and organs. People with Marfan syndrome are tall and thin, with poor vision. Sometimes, the condition causes tissues to enlarge, including blood vessels. Therefore, if blood vessels, particularly those near the heart or the brain, are enlarged, an aneurysm can occur. While individuals (1 in 5000) are born with Marfan syndrome, the signs don’t always manifest right away. Sometimes, they appear, and grow worse over time, occasionally not even becoming apparent until adulthood.
5. Fibromuscular Dysplasia
Fibromuscular Dysplasia refers to a progressive twisting of the blood vessels in some parts of the body. This can cause a number of circulatory system issues. In the cause of aneurysms, the blood vessels can apply pressure to the brain, causing immense pain and potentially, a medical emergency. Unfortunately, this disorder can be problematic because oftentimes it has no symptoms. This can allow it to remain undiagnosed and unchecked until a serious complication occurs. However, sometimes people with Fibromuscular Dysplasia have symptoms that vary based on affected blood vessels. These include headaches, ringing in the ears, and high blood pressure.
Cocaine, in all of its various forms, is bad for you for so many reasons. If you need another, it can contribute to aneurysms (as can some other drugs). The likelihood and severity of aneurysms are directly correlated to frequency and size of dosages, but the risk remains even years after cocaine use has abated- especially in later years. The reasoning is not entirely understood, however, the theory is that cocaine use weakens the blood vessels over time, and when it causes a spike of blood pressure, may cause said blood vessels to burst, creating a heart attack or stroke.
As mentioned earlier, cancerous tumors can also create problems with aneurysms. This is mainly due to the fact that the larger tumors get, the more they expand into the body. The expansion, therefore, puts pressure on all of the surrounding tissue. So, if there’s a brain tumor, it is possible that the size and shape of the tumor can contribute to a restriction in blood flow by pinching off a blood vessel, resulting in an aneurysm. In general, tumors that become large can interfere with a lot of bodily processes, which makes them dangerous. See a doctor about shrinking or removal.
2. Head Injury
This one is a no-brainer (no pun intended). Injuries to your head can endanger your brain. Specifically, trauma can cause your blood vessels to swell as a result of inflammation. Inflammation can put pressure on the surrounding tissue, and result in a blocked blood vessel either directly, or as a result of inflamed tissue blocking another vessel. Either way, if you experience a head injury, it’s a good idea to get checked out immediately. Ensure there’s no concussion or other serious damage; sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the seriousness of such injuries to become apparent.
1. Treatment Options
When it comes to treatment options, there are many different procedures. In some cases, particularly the mild ones, it’s a matter of careful observation; if this is the case, there will likely be medication involved to help lower blood pressure, along with direction on lifestyle changes, which can reduce the odds or a leak or a rupture. In other cases, surgery is necessary, either to reinforce or remove the problematic vessel. If an intracranial aneurysm does rupture, it is imperative that emergency protocols are carried out; failure to do so can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Aneurysms can be dangerous, especially when they occur near the heart (aortic) or the brain (intracranial). While there are numerous factors that are beyond our control to prevent them, there are a number of important lifestyle changes, such as avoiding smoking we can make to improve our odds. Keeping a normal blood pressure, eating healthy foods, and getting regular exercise all go a long way in protecting blood vessel health, and also health overall. Furthermore, being aware of risk factors as well as indicators of an aneurysm allow one to be prepared to take both preventative and emergency action.Related: 17 Heart Attack Signs You Can’t Ignore