A brain aneurysm is like a thief in the night.
Most people who died from brain aneurysm didn't actually know what hit them.
It chooses no one. Its victims can be young or slim or athletic.
In showbiz, it claimed the life of Fernando Poe Jr. last December 14, 2004. He was 65 years old.
It is reportedly the reason Isabel Granada, 41, is lying comatose at the intensive care unit of Hamad Hospital in Doha, Qatar.
Defined as a bulging spot or balloon that forms when the wall of blood vessels in our brain becomes weak, it is oftentimes undetected because it shows no symptoms.
In an interview featured in the John Hopskins Medicine website, neurosurgeon Judy Huang, MD, explained people can live with unruptured brain aneurysms for years without detection, when "no blood has broken through the blood vessel walls."
She said, "This means the 'balloon' in your blood vessel remains intact.
"For unruptured brain aneurysms, doctors will treat aneurysms that are more likely to bleed and leave certain others alone."
It follows that a brain aneurysm becomes dangerous, and sometimes lethal, when it ruptures.
Ruptured aneurysm causes bleeding in the brain that can lead to a stroke.
TYPES. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), there are two types of aneurysms.
The first is saccular aneurysm, most commonly called berry aneurysm because it looks like a berry hanging from a stem.
This type "accounts for 80% to 90% of all intracranial aneurysms and are the most common cause of nontraumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)," which happens when there is bleeding in the space surrounding the brain.
SAH from a ruptured brain aneurysm "can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, brain damage and death."
The second type of aneurysm is fusiform aneurysm, which is the less common type.
It looks like a small pouch expanded in all directions. According to BAF, fusiform aneurysm does not have a stem and it seldom ruptures.
Those who have a history of aneurysms in their family and those afflicted with diabetes and hypertension are at high risk. They should see a doctor.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) can help detect if a brain aneurysm is present.
SYMPTOMS OF A RUPTURED BRAIN ANEURYSM. A sudden, intense and severe headache, or the worst headache of your life, may be a warning sign of a ruptured brain aneurysm.
"People describe it as like being struck by a bolt of lightning," said neurosurgeon Howard Riina, MD, said in the magazine, Prevention.
This is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- stiff neck
- blurred or double vision
- light sensitivity
- sudden trouble walking or dizziness
- sudden weakness
- drooping eyelid
Here are the symptoms you need to watch out for:
- localized headache
- difficulty speaking
- pain above and behind the eye
- dilated pupils
- weakness and numbness
- blurred or double vision
A ruptured brain aneurysm requires immediate medical attention.
TREATMENTS. According to Neurological Surgery, P.C., a neurosurgical group specializing in brain and spine disorders from New York City, U.S.A., there are several treatment options for brain aneurysm.
The first is observation, which is best recommended if the aneurysm is small and asymptomatic.
The next is coil embolization, which "involves placing a tiny tube into the artery close to the site of the aneurysm."
This helps in relieving the pressure and preventing a rupture.
The other is surgical clipping, where a small clip is placed over the aneurysm to stop the blood flow and decrease the risk of bursting.
RISK FACTORS. The Stroke Association says while it is still unknown why or when a brain aneurysm will rupture, there are factors that increase the chance of a bleed.
People with high blood pressure are at risk as this is the leading cause of subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Lifting heavy things or straining the body can cause pressure to rise in the brain and rupture the aneurysm.
Strong emotions like anger and shock can also raise blood pressure and lead to a ruptured brain aneurysm.
Those taking blood thinners, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs such as cocaine are also at high risk.
In general, taking care of our overall health will help decrease our chance of developing a brain aneurysm.
And don't forget: Have a balanced and healthy diet, exercise regularly, drink alcohol in moderation, cut down on caffeine, and avoid smoking.