Aneurysm, Brain Health (cont.)

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Brain Aneurysm Symptoms

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Many brain aneurysms have no symptoms at all and are only discovered incidentally during an autopsy after the patient has died from another cause. Brain aneurysms affect approximately 5%-10% of the population and only half of all aneurysms leak or rupture.

Symptoms of the aneurysm occur when blood leaks into the subarachnoid space. Some blood can also leak into surrounding brain tissue causing symptoms as well.

The primary symptom of a leaking aneurysm is pain. It is usually a sudden, intense headache that might be associated with nausea, vomiting, and photophobia or light sensitivity. There may be a sentinel headache that occurs from an initial small blood leak and, if ignored, the next headache can be catastrophic with the patient presenting with a decreased level of consciousness or coma.

A stiff neck commonly occurs shortly after the onset of headache and is due to blood in the subarachnoid space causing irritation to the meninges, the tissues that line the brain and spinal cord.

Other symptoms may mimic a stroke and can include weakness and numbness of one side of the face or body, difficulty speaking, and vertigo.

When to Seek Medical Care

Patients who have altered mental status, confusion, lethargy, and loss of consciousness associated with a headache need emergency attention and it is appropriate to activate the emergency medical system (call 911, if available) to get help.

Individuals with migraine headaches or those who have routine headaches know their headaches and associated symptoms. If the symptoms are different or more intense, it may be worthwhile to seek medical care.

Patients who have a severe headache, fever, and stiff neck should also seek medical care immediately. These symptoms may be caused by meningitis or encephalitis.

Patients may complain of a thunderclap headache, an acute onset of intense pain, that may be associated with a leaking aneurysm and it is appropriate to seek medical care emergently.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/27/2014

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