Symptoms of a brain bleed include severe headaches, blurred vision, weakness on one side of the body, and a stiff neck. A brain bleed is a medical emergency that needs hospital treatment.
A bleed on the brain is known as a hemorrhage, which is a type of stroke. The kind of bleed depends on where it occurs in the brain. For example, if a person hits their head, they may experience a subdural hematoma. Here, blood leaks out of damaged veins into the membrane that covers the brain, and causes pressure to build up.
Although a brain bleed can be fatal, recovery is possible. A person may also experience long-term complications, such as epilepsy, or memory problems.
There may be no warning signs of a bleed on the brain. For example, it could happen after someone falls and hits their head.
Physical activity or strain can cause an aneurysm to rupture. This is why a brain bleed might happen if someone lifts something heavy, or feels a strong emotion, such as anger, which causes their blood pressure to rise.
The symptoms can vary, depending on where the bleed occurs. Different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, such as speech, memory, or movement.
A person with a bleed on the brain may experience:
- sudden severe headache
- stiff neck
- feeling or being sick
- sensitivity to light
- difficulty moving or walking
- passing out
A person could also have symptoms of a stroke. People should remember the signs, and what to do, using the abbreviation Fast:
- face drooping
- arm weakness
- speech slurring
- time to call 911
Stroke is a medical emergency. A person should always call 911 if someone experiences symptoms of a bleed on the brain, or stroke.
A severe head injury can cause a brain bleed. All serious head traumas need urgent medical attention. People with this type of injury may:
- pass out
- seem confused
- have difficulty speaking
- be sick
- have blood or fluid coming from their ears
- find it hard to stay awake
A ruptured aneurysm can cause a bleed on the brain. Aneurysms can be hard to detect before they burst, but common symptoms include headaches or double vision. When they rupture, it could be in response to head trauma, or a rise in blood pressure levels.
Anything that damages blood vessels can increase a person’s risk for an aneurysm. Risk factors can include:
In the United States, the risk of a first stroke is twice as high for Black people in comparison with white people. This may be because the risk of diabetes and obesity is higher in Black populations.
Genes may also play a part. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy is a genetic condition that can cause a loss of brain function with age. Proteins build up around the brain’s artery walls, and this may increase the risk of dementia, stroke, and epilepsy.
It may be obvious that a person has a brain bleed because of their symptoms. Clear causes and risk factors, such as a head injury, or previous stroke, can also help diagnose a brain bleed.
In the case of an aneurysm, a doctor can inject a dye into the blood vessels that will show up on an X-ray to help locate it.
A lumbar puncture can also check for signs of a bleed. A doctor will take a small sample of fluid from the lower part of the spine with a needle.
If these tests show that a person has had a brain bleed, follow-up tests can give more information to help make a treatment plan.
Treatment options can vary. It depends if a person is experiencing a brain, bleed, or is at risk for one, for example, if they have an aneurysm.
If a person has an unruptured aneurysm, a surgeon will perform a coiling procedure. They will use a catheter to guide small metal coils into the aneurysm. This stops blood entering the blood vessel, and seals it off from the main artery, to prevent it from swelling and bursting later on. The procedure can be done several times throughout a person’s life.
A surgeon can also perform a clipping procedure, where they place a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm to prevent the blood from entering it.
Immediate treatment after a brain bleed is with medication. This may relieve pain and prevent any seizures that relate to the ruptured aneurysm.
If an aneurysm causes the brain bleed, a person may need surgery to repair the ruptured blood vessel.
There are two types of bleed on the brain: intracerebral hemorrhage, where the bleed occurs within the brain tissue, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, where the bleed happens on the brain surface.
Head injuries that result in a brain bleed are usually subarachnoid hemorrhages, while high blood pressure is a more common cause of intracerebral hemorrhage. Both types of brain bleed have similar symptoms.
Brain bleeds cause around 13% of stroke cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a more common cause of stroke is when a blockage occurs in the blood flow to the brain. This is known as an ischemic attack.
A brain bleed can have several complications, and some take longer to present than others.
An aneurysm may burst again, to cause another bleed. The risk is higher in the first few days after the first bleed. Symptoms are the same as the initial brain bleed, but are often more severe.
After a brain bleed, a blood vessel can spasm and narrow. This reduces the supply of blood to the brain, and can cause brain damage. Symptoms include drowsiness, and signs similar to a stroke.
Fluid can build up on the brain after a brain bleed. This can put pressure on the brain, and cause a person to have headaches, vomiting, and blurred vision.
Other complications can take longer to appear, and these include:
- problems with memory
- mood disorders
- behavioral changes
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, when an aneurysm ruptures, a person’s survival rate is 50%. A person who survives a brain bleed is also likely to have complications. Around 66% of people will experience neurological problems, such as issues with speech or memory.
There are several things a person can do to prevent a brain bleed. However, some factors are out of their control, such as genetics.
Steps a person can take to prevent a brain bleed include:
- eating a healthful diet
- reducing stress
- limiting salt and fat intake
- stopping smoking
- limiting alcohol consumption
Anyone with diabetes can manage their symptoms with support from a medical professional. People with heart conditions should seek advice on treatment. They can take medication or undergo surgery to reduce the risk of a brain bleed.
A brain bleed is a serious medical emergency. Someone should call 911 if a person has symptoms of stroke or a bleed on the brain.
Recovery is possible, but a person may have complications. Close supervision by a medical professional after treatment can help reduce the risk of complications.