There usually are few symptoms of a brain aneurysm. Sometimes, brain aneurysms press on a nerve or leak small amounts of blood before a major rupture, thus producing warning signs. If you have the following symptoms (minutes or weeks before the rupture), you should see a doctor quickly so that steps can be taken to prevent a massive hemorrhage:
- Severe headache
- Pain behind one eye
- Double vision, droopy eyelid or other vision problems
An actual rupture can produce the following symptoms:
- A sudden, severe headache
- A brief loss of consciousness that often follows the onset of the headache. Some people remain in a coma, but most often patients wake up feeling confused and sleepy. Within a few minutes or few hours, the patient may again begin to feel confused and sleepy
- Frequent fluctuations in the heartbeat and breathing rate often occur
- Paralysis on one side of the body or neurologic problems (usually occurring in about 25 percent of the people who have subarachnoid hemorrhages)
Causes and Risk Factors
Aneurysms most likely are conditions a person has at birth. The weak spot may not start ballooning out until later in adulthood. As the aneurysm becomes larger and the balloon wall becomes thinner, the risk of the aneurysm bursting grows. Research tends to show that people who smoke are more likely to have aneurysms that rupture. People who have uncontrolled high blood pressure also may have a greater risk of a ruptured aneurysm.
Certain diseases that run in families appear to be linked to brain aneurysms. People with a family history of polycystic kidney disease and brain aneurysms should be screened.