One of the most difficult health care issues to diagnose early is an aneurysm. They can be deadly if not caught in time, and often are fatal if they occur in certain circumstances. It is not clear exactly what causes aneurysms, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Some aneurysms are present at birth (congenital). Defects in some of the parts of the artery wall may be responsible. Common locations for aneurysms include:
• The major artery from the heart (the aorta)
• The brain (cerebral aneurysm)
• In the leg behind the knee popliteal artery aneurysm)
• Intestine (mesenteric artery aneurysm)
• An artery in the spleen (splenic artery aneurysm)
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking may raise your risk of certain types of aneurysms. High blood pressure is thought to play a role in abdominal aortic aneurysms. Atherosclerotic disease (cholesterol buildup in arteries) may also lead to the formation of some aneurysms. Pregnancy is often linked to the formation and rupture of splenic artery aneurysms. More info can be found at this site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001122.htm .
According to the Mayo Clinic, with a brain aneurysm, a sudden, severe headache is the key symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. This headache is often described as the "worst headache" ever experienced. Common signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:
• Sudden, extremely severe headache
• Nausea and vomiting
• Stiff neck
• Blurred or double vision
• Sensitivity to light
• A drooping eyelid
• Loss of consciousness
In some cases, according to the Mayo Clinic, an aneurysm may leak a slight amount of blood. This leaking (sentinel bleed) may cause only a sudden, extremely severe headache. A more severe rupture almost always follows leaking. An unruptured brain aneurysm may produce no symptoms, particularly if it's small. However, a large unruptured aneurysm may press on brain tissues and nerves, possibly causing:
• Pain above and behind an eye
• A dilated pupil
• Change in vision or double vision
• Numbness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the face
• A drooping eyelid
A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency. In about 30 percent of cases, ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop a sudden, extremely severe headache. If you're with someone who complains of a sudden, severe headache or who loses consciousness or has a seizure, call 911 or your local emergency number. More material about this subject is found here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/brain-aneurysm/DS00582/DSECTION=symptoms .
Aneurysms tend to occur in older Caucasian men; women are less at risk. By age 80, over 5% of Caucasian men have developed an aneurysm. People of African descent rarely develop aneurysms. Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in 4% to 8% of men 65 and older and in 0.5% to 1.5% of women 65 and older. They rarely occur in people under age 55. Unfortunately, 80% to 90% of people who experience a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm die from it, according to the pharmacy chain company Duane Reade.
A person's risk of developing an aneurysm may be inherited. Ascending aortic aneurysms and berry aneurysms are especially likely to run in families. The men of an affected family are more likely to develop aneurysms than are the women. Scientists haven't yet identified the responsible genes in humans, though they have identified some in mice.
About half of all people with ascending aortic aneurysms are born with deformations known as Marfan's syndrome. Such people are unusually tall with long extremities. Abraham Lincoln is thought to have had Marfan's syndrome. They also have a weakness in the aortic wall, just where the aorta leaves the top of the heart.
Two other types of aneurysms are mycotic and atherosclerotic aneurysms. Mycotic aneurysms are caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Almost any such organism can damage the arteries, but the infection must be very deep and severe. The bacteria salmonella and syphilis both seem to have a special liking for arterial walls.
Atherosclerotic aneurysms are linked to the process that causes coronary artery disease, which is the buildup of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the arteries. In reality, the picture's not so clear. Even someone with severe atherosclerosis may not develop an aneurysm if they are not already genetically predisposed.
Risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity, smoking, and obesity, are also risk factors for aneurysms. Severe aneurysms are probably due to a combination of genes and poor cardiovascular health. Occasionally, aneurysms develop where stab or gunshot wounds have perforated an artery. Much more information can be found at their site: http://www.duanereade.com/health/conditionfactsheet/237_1_0_1_0_0/aneurysm.aspx .
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, one of the most frequently asked questions by brain aneurysm survivors is “How long until I get better?” Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the length of time it will take to improve or even how much improvement will actually occur. Recovery for patients who receive treatment for an unruptured aneurysm generally require less rehabilitative therapy and recover more quickly than patients whose aneurysm has ruptured.
There will be a better chance for recovery if the survivor and his or her family maintain hope, even if that means the recovery process will take a long period of time. A famous rehabilitation pioneer, George Prigatano, Ph.D., frequently tells his patients “If the brain is alive, it can learn.” If you are an aneurysm survivor or you are a caretaker, you need to remember these inspiring and assuring words. The brain can learn new skills for a lifetime. For survivors, there are many challenges to face in the road to recovery: physical challenges, emotional challenges, depression, and dealing with potential deficits. Much more information can be found at this website: http://www.bafound.org .
Aneurysms are extremely serious health events. If you feel that you may be experiencing one or know someone who is, seek immediate medical attention. Better to be cautious than not.
Until next time.