A person may experience intense thunderclap headaches if a brain aneurysm fully ruptures. These last for at least 5 minutes, although they usually peak within 30 seconds.
A brain aneurysm is a compromised spot on a brain artery. This spot gradually fills up with blood, bulging out, and sometimes rupturing.
Whether ruptured or not, an aneurysm can cause painful headaches.
This article looks at the main features of brain aneurysm headaches, including how long they usually last.
It also looks at both brain aneurysm symptoms, compares brain aneurysm headaches and migraine, and discusses seeking medical attention.
However, larger brain aneurysms can cause headaches. Brain aneurysms always cause headaches when they rupture.
Unruptured brain aneurysms can cause chronic headaches. When a brain aneurysm slightly ruptures, a sudden and severe headache may result. Doctors call them “sentinel headaches.”
These are different from the intense thunderclap headaches that happen when the artery is fully ruptured.
Learn more about brain aneurysms, their causes, and how to prevent them.
Unruptured vs. ruptured
According to the
This can cause pain above and behind the eye. Indeed, some scientists estimate that chronic headaches affect between 18–36% of people with an unruptured brain aneurysm.
When brain aneurysms rupture fully, large volumes of blood leak into the brain. As a
People who have had thunderclap headaches describe them as the most painful headaches they have ever experienced.
Thunderclap headaches always reach peak intensity within
Sometimes, a brain aneurysm will burst only slightly, causing relatively small blood leaks. Doctors call these “warning leaks” because they can precede a full rupture.
This can cause a sudden but less intense headache. Doctors call them “sentinel” headaches.
Because brain aneurysms affect the brain, they can cause a wide variety of problems, when ruptured or unruptured.
- facial paralysis
- dilated pupils
- changes in vision, such as double vision
Some signs of a ruptured brain aneurysm include:
- a stiff neck
- double vision
- sensitivity to light
- loss of consciousness
Ruptured brain aneurysms can also cause heart attacks.
Migraine is a disorder that causes episodes of intense headaches.
Because there are similarities between migraine headaches and brain aneurysm headaches, doctors who diagnose one condition
However, there are also significant differences between these types of headaches.
The following table compares brain aneurysm headaches with migraine headaches.
|Migraine headaches||Headache episodes ||They |
|Unruptured brain aneurysm headache||Research suggests that these headaches can be chronic. They can last between several minutes, to several days.||Mostly moderately severe.||Causes symptoms similar to those of migraine headaches.||These headaches also typically affect only one side of the head.|
|Ruptured brain aneurysm headache||These headaches come on very quickly. They last for at least 1 minute and may persist until successful treatment.||Extremely severe.||These can come with nausea and sensitivity to light.||In around |
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a serious medical emergency.
Individuals with symptoms of unruptured brain aneurysms should also seek medical advice.
This section answers some frequently asked questions about brain aneurysms.
Does a headache from an aneurysm go away?
Yes, but not always.
Even with treatment, around 40% of people with an unruptured brain aneurysm will experience long-term chronic headaches.
Research shows similar figures for people who survive a brain aneurysm rupture.
Can unruptured aneurysm headaches come and go?
Yes, although they can also be more constant.
Brain aneurysms can cause many different types of headaches.
An unruptured brain aneurysm can manifest as recurrent or chronic headaches. Even with successful treatment, many people who have had an unruptured brain aneurysm will continue to experience these headaches.
When a brain aneurysm ruptures, this brings on a sudden, severe headache. Partial ruptures induce sentinel headaches, while full ruptures bring on a thunderclap headache. The latter are more intense, and always peak within 1 minute. However, they last for a minimum of 5 minutes.
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency. Anyone with a sudden and severe headache should immediately seek medical advice.