Doctors do not always know the exact cause of a ruptured brain aneurysm. However, several risk factors, including high blood pressure, increase the risk of it bursting.

A brain aneurysm occurs when a weak point on an artery in the brain swells. The swelling can cause pressure on the brain and nerves that can lead to symptoms such as numbness and weakness.

In some cases, a brain aneurysm can rupture, causing a severe headache and often other symptoms. It can lead to several severe complications, including death.

In this article, we will review what ruptured brain aneurysms are and explore possible risk factors, symptoms, and more.

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A brain or cerebral aneurysm describes a weak spot on an artery in the brain that bulges out or balloons and fills with blood. The bulging artery can burst, which can lead to blood spilling into surrounding tissue, known as a hemorrhage. When this occurs, a doctor may refer to it as a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Typically, smaller brain aneurysms do not cause symptoms or burst. However, any aneurysm can burst. Brain aneurysms can occur in any area of the brain, but they are most common in the major arteries along the base of the brain.

Brain aneurysms occur when part of the artery weakens or thins. Often, this occurs at branch points in the arteries where they are naturally weaker.

Aneurysms may be present since birth but typically develop in people with certain risk factors, including:

Though experts do not know why a brain aneurysm ruptures, they know that certain factors can increase the risk they will burst. Risk factors include:

  • high blood pressure
  • stress, which may suddenly increase blood pressure
  • lifting a heavy object
  • size, shape, and location, with smaller, uniformly shaped aneurysms being the least likely to rupture
  • family history of aneurysms and ruptures
  • personal history of aneurysms
  • growth of the aneurysm
  • smoking

When a brain aneurysm bursts, it almost always causes a sudden, intense headache that causes extreme discomfort. A person may also develop additional symptoms, including:

  • seizures
  • sensitivity to light
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • double vision
  • stiff neck
  • cardiac arrest
  • loss of consciousness

Many people with smaller aneurysms go without a diagnosis because they do not have any symptoms. However, if these aneurysms rupture, they typically cause sudden and extreme headaches. Sometimes, a severe and sudden headache may prompt a doctor to order tests to detect a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Tests may include one or more of the following:

A person with a known brain aneurysm can take steps to help reduce the risk of it bursting. These include:

  • stopping smoking, if applicable
  • carefully controlling blood pressure
  • avoiding the use of recreational drugs

A doctor may recommend treating the aneurysm before it ruptures, but they will base their recommendations according to the risk of the aneurysm bursting. Treatments for nonruptured brain aneurysms may include surgical correction or insertion of devices to help prevent swelling or bursting.

A burst brain aneurysm can lead to several potentially serious complications, including subarachnoid hemorrhage, when blood leaks into the space between two of the membranes surrounding the brain, or death. Complications can cause additional symptoms and issues that may need treatment as well.

If the aneurysm has ruptured, a doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • antiseizure drugs
  • placement of a shunt
  • calcium channel-blocking drugs
  • rehabilitative therapy

Recovery times will vary according to the possible complications a person experiences. A person should work with a doctor or other specialists to determine their individual prognosis following a brain aneurysm rupture.

A common early sign of a ruptured brain aneurysm is an intense, sudden headache. A person should seek medical attention as soon as possible if this occurs, as it may indicate a burst aneurysm. It is also highly advisable to consult a doctor if individuals experience other symptoms such as vision changes and seizures.

A brain aneurysm occurs when an artery fills with blood and bulges. In some cases, it can rupture, leading to bleeding in the brain, stroke, and other possible complications.

While preventing an aneurysm rupture may not always be possible, a person can take steps, such as reducing their blood pressure and stopping smoking, to help reduce the risk. If someone develops a sudden, painful headache, they need to seek medical help.

Treatments can vary according to the complications that develop due to the rupture. If bleeding occurs, a doctor may suggest medications, a shunt, and rehabilitative therapy.