A brain or cerebral aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the wall of a brain artery. A brain aneurysm can occur in an artery wall that is weak or has a defect. If this bulge tears and bleeds, nearby cells may be damaged.
Arteries anywhere in the brain can develop aneurysms. Most aneurysms occur where an artery branches, often at the base of the brain. A normal artery wall is made up of three layers. The wall where the aneurysm forms is thin and weak because of an abnormal loss or absence of the muscular layer of the artery wall, leaving only two layers.
Causes of Aneurysms
Many risk factors may contribute to the occurrence or cause of a brain aneurysm. Some of these risks can be inherited, but others are within your control. Brain aneurysms are associated with several factors, including
- Advancing age
- Alcohol consumption (especially binge drinking)
- Atherosclerosis: A buildup of plaque (made up of deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin) in the inner lining of an artery
- Head injury
- High blood pressure
- Use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamine
Types of Brain Aneurysms
There are several ways to classify and treat a brain aneurysm based on shape, size, location or cause.
- Berry aneurysm. The most common type of brain or cerebral aneurysm is called a saccular, or berry, aneurysm, occurring in 90% of cerebral aneurysms. This type of aneurysm looks like a "berry" with a narrow stem. More than one aneurysm may be present.
- Fusiform aneurysm. A fusiform aneurysm bulges out on all sides, forming a dilated artery. Fusiform aneurysms are often associated with atherosclerosis.
- Dissecting aneurysm. A dissecting aneurysm results from a tear along the length of the artery in the inner layer of the artery wall, causing blood to leak in between the layers of the wall. This may cause a ballooning out on one side of the artery wall, or it may block off or obstruct blood flow through the artery. Dissecting aneurysms usually occur from traumatic injury, but they can also happen spontaneously. The shape and location of the aneurysm may determine which treatment is recommended.
Brain Aneurysm Symptoms
In most cases, a brain aneurysm has no symptoms until it bleeds or tears. The symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Headaches (rare, if unruptured)
- Eye pain
- Vision changes
- Diminished eye movement
The first evidence of a brain aneurysm is most frequently a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), due to rupture of the aneurysm. This may cause symptoms such as:
- Rapid onset of "worst headache of my life"
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in mental status, such as drowsiness
- Pain in specific areas, such as the eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- High blood pressure
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Sensitivity to light
- Back or leg pain
- Problems with certain functions of the eyes, nose, tongue and/or ears that are controlled by one or more of the 12 cranial nerves
- Coma and death
The symptoms of a brain aneurysm may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis. For those in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, the specialists at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, formerly the Brain & Spine Institute, are here to help.
Evaluation and Treatment by Expert Neurosurgeons
A brain aneurysm needs to be evaluated immediately and treated promptly, if possible. Our team of expert neurosurgeons, physician assistants and nurses at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates collaborate to provide expert care.
In some brain aneurysm cases, bleeding can only be treated with supportive medical care. Treatment may not always reverse the resulting brain damage. In many cases, brain aneurysm surgery may help prevent more bleeding, remove trapped blood in and around the brain or relieve excessive brain pressure. In order to prevent additional bleeding, other forms of therapy, such as endovascular coiling or microvascular clipping, may be considered.
Make an Appointment at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates
For more information about brain aneurysms or other related cerebral health issues, please call 678-312-2700, or complete the online form and our expert staff will contact you.