Brain aneurysms can be a serious health concern with equally serious side effects, including blood loss and stroke. With factors like these, it may seem like an aneurysm is hard to ignore, but you might be surprised to learn that almost six million Americans are living with a brain aneurysm and don’t even know it.
“Brain aneurysms can easily go undetected to a patient,” explains Grahame Gould, MD, neurosurgeon at the Main Line Health Neurovascular Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “Until an aneurysm ruptures or is detected by a physician, very few people actually notice symptoms or recognize a problem.”
That’s because, until an aneurysm ruptures or causes symptoms, there may not actually be a problem, says Dr. Gould. Small, unruptured aneurysms at the front of the brain are often left alone in older patients or those without a family or personal history of aneurysms. Although these aneurysms are regularly monitored, they can be left alone if they don’t present an immediate risk.
However, not all unruptured aneurysms fall into this category. Some are detected and can present a risk depending on their size and location. In cases like these, a neurologist will consider whether or not treatment is appropriate.
“If an unruptured aneurysm is detected and it presents a risk, a physician will determine whether or not it’s something that needs treated. You have to consider factors like the probability of whether or not it will eventually rupture, its size, its location, and the health and age of the patient before making that decision,” says Dr. Gould.
Regardless of whether or not the decision is made to treat an unruptured aneurysm, controlling blood pressure and quitting smoking are both ways to lower your risk of an aneurysm’s growth and rupture.
So, should you be concerned about the presence of a brain aneurysm? Unless you’re noticing symptoms, probably not, says Dr. Gould. Keep an eye out for symptoms like double vision or loss of vision, facial weakness or numbness, unsteadiness, or sudden, painful headaches. Symptoms like these could mean that the size or location of your aneurysm could require medical attention.
The Main Line Health Neurovascular Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital is home to a state-of-the-art neurovascular lab that performs minimally invasive neurovascular procedures, including aneurysm repair. If you or someone you know loses consciousness, has a seizure, or is complaining of a sudden, severe headache, seek emergency medical assistance immediately and call 911.