You have probably heard the aneurysm sometime in your life. But do you know what an aneurysm really is? Aneurysms are defects in the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood. An aneurysm occurs when a part of the blood vessel wall weakens and starts to swell up or widen abnormally. In many cases, the swelling has no recognizable symptoms. Aneurysms can happen in a lot of places including the heart, leg, intestine, spleen, and brain.
What is a Cerebral Aneurysm?
Aneurysms that happen in the brain (called cerebral aneurysms) are particularly concerning because they can be dangerous. If a cerebral aneurysm becomes too large, it can press on the surrounding brain tissue, causing neurological symptoms, like paralysis or severe pain.
Cerebral aneurysms can also rupture, allowing blood to leak in the brain. A ruptured aneurysm can destroy surrounding tissue and cut off blood supply to the rest of the brain. Symptoms include extremely painful headaches, sudden collapse, and regression into a comatose state. A cerebral aneurysm can also lead to brain damage and a host of symptoms like vision problems, paralysis in the legs, and seizures.
Causes of Cerebral Aneurysms
Cerebral aneurysms happen when a part of the wall of a blood vessel located in the brain becomes weak, which leads it to the balloon up with blood. Most cases occur at sites where the blood vessel branches or forks since these formations naturally concentrate stress on a vulnerable spot of the vessel. Once an aneurysm occurs, its growth can be accelerated by high blood pressure or any form of trauma. These issues can also lead it to rupture. So, what causes blood vessels to weaken? The answer is constant pressure from blood flow. When you are stressed, live an unhealthy lifestyle, or deal with a traumatic experience, your blood flows faster. When this rapid blood flow happens too often, you run the risk of developing an aneurysm.
There are some risk factors associated with cerebral aneurysms. Here are the most common ones:
- Genetic Factors Genetic disorders can affect the integrity of connective tissue. Such diseases can compromise the strength of blood vessels in the body, including the brain. Genetic factors may also cause blood vessels to become more tangled, increasing the number of potential weak spots. Having relatives who suffer from aneurysms increases your risk of developing cerebral aneurysms.
- Health Conditions Other risk factors are specific health conditions that could affect blood vessels. Conditions that increase high blood pressure can put more pressure on the blood vessel walls, thus increasing your risk of cerebral aneurysms. Atherosclerosis, a disease in which fat deposits attach to the interior of blood vessels, can cause further damage. Cancerous tumors growing in the head or neck can constrict and distort blood vessels in the brain. An abnormality with the aorta can also lead to harmful changes in blood flow to the brain, resulting in aneurysms.
- Lifestyle Habits Heavy alcohol consumption tends to lead to higher incidences of aneurysms. Smoking increases blood pressure and weakens blood vessels. Drug abuse, particularly those involving stimulants, can also increase the risk of swelling and ruptures of blood vessels.
If you are at a high risk of developing cerebral aneurysms or have a family history of them, consider seeing a specialist to ensure you take appropriate preventive measures to protect yourself and get treatment, if necessary. The experts at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery diagnose and treat cerebral aneurysms on a regular basis. To make an appointment with one of their experts, call (303) 790-1800 or schedule an appointment online.