An aneurysm is a ballooning of the walls of a blood vessel. A headache with neck stiffness may be an early sign of a brain aneurysm. More severe symptoms may indicate bursting of the aneurysm. A very sudden, severe headache with neck pain, nausea and vomiting requires the immediate attention of emergency personnel. Seizures may also develop. While aneurysms can cause severe headaches, not all severe headaches are the result of aneurysms.
Aneurysms occur when the blood vessel wall becomes weakened by physical injury to the vessel, a congenital defect (i.e., present since birth), or a disease. Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is a common cause of aneurysms.
Special X-rays are required for the diagnosis. These include a brain CT scan or brain arteriogram. During a brain arteriogram, a special type of dye is injected into the brain arteries. This dye is brightly displayed on the X-ray and outlines blood vessels and aneurysms. Care focuses on treating the cause of the aneurysm and repairing the blood vessel. This often means controlling the blood pressure to prevent unnecessary stress on the aneurysm, followed by surgery to repair the vessel. If the vessel bursts, care focuses on preventing further bleeding. Surgery may be required to remove the blood clot and to clip the aneurysm to prevent further bleeding.
Many people die from a brain aneurysm. The patient bleeds into the brain and a stroke occurs. The patient may pass out and/or become paralyzed on one or both sides of their body. Death may be prevented if early treatment is provided.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about aneurysms.