In the moments after the rush to the emergency room, most family members will not know how strokes differ from aneurysms. All they know is a loved one looks as if he’s had a stroke.
A Stroke itself is a life-threatening medical emergency that affects the brain. Aneurysms, however, can lead to a stroke.
Both conditions are the result of diseased blood vessel walls. And, although they share some of the risk factors and symptoms there are key differences.
Here’s how strokes differ from aneurysms:
A stroke is a medical emergency.
- Blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off, depriving that area of the brain of oxygen and nutrients. This can cause the death of brain tissue.
The most common type of stroke occurs when an artery has become blocked, causing loss of blood to a part of the brain. This is referred to as an “ischemic stroke.”
- Ischemic heart disease is the most common cause of death in most Western countries and a major cause of hospital admissions.
The other, rarer type of stroke, is a hemorrhagic stroke, which happens when a blood vessel in the brain bleeds.
- In this case, an artery in the brain may have burst and bled because the walls of the blood vessel were weakened.
An aneurysm, which is an abnormal bulge in a blood vessel can be one cause of a weakened brain artery.
- This type of bleed, happens over the surface of the brain, into the fluid-filled space between the brain and the underside of the skull bone.
- The primary symptom is a sudden, severe headache, which is sometimes associated with nausea, vomiting and brief loss of consciousness.
- If it goes untreated, a subarachnoid hemorrhage can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
- 40-50% of patients with a subarachnoid bleed do not survive longer than a month at best.
Survival depends on a number of things, including age, general health, and how quickly medical care is received.
For people who do survive a burst aneurysm in the brain, brain, however, the outlook remains serious.
One aneurysm increases the chances of another burst, and there are likely to be complications such as long-term brain damage and nervous disorders.
Most strokes are caused by a blocked artery. Common Symptoms include:
- One side of the face dropping
- Inability to lift the arms
- Weakness or numbness in one arm
- Slurred speech or inability to talk
- Other symptoms may include:
- Complete paralysis of the body along one side
- Sudden vision disturbance
- Mental confusion or difficulty understanding other people
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Difficulty swallowing
Not all Aneurysms burst, however, and the symptoms are likely to appear only if the size of the bulge is large.
An Aneurysm that has not burst may produce symptoms such as:
- Vision problems
- Pain above or around the eye
- Weakness or numbness of the face
- Loss of balance
- Speaking difficulties
- Problems with thinking clearly
A burst aneurysm in the brain usually causes:
- A sudden, extreme headache
- Collapse, seizure, or coma
Risk factors and prevention
Both conditions have two major risk factors in common: smoking and high blood pressure, which increase the risk of an aneurysm bursting.
Age is also a risk factor for both.
- Older people are more likely to have an aneurysm or stroke than younger people, (Although strokes among young people appear to be on the rise.) See the link at the bottom of the page for more information.
The biggest preventable risk factors for Strokes are:
- Smoking or other tobacco use
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
Unfortunately, genetic factors such as a family history of heart disease or stroke are not preventable.
Stay well informed and protect your heart and brain with healthy lifestyle choices.
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