What is the difference between a stroke and an aneurysm?
A stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency, where blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off, resulting in the brain being starved of oxygen and nutrients. This can cause the death of brain tissue and in effect, lead to significant brain damage. The most common type of stroke is when there is a loss of blood to part of the brain because an artery has been blocked. This is called ischemic stroke. The other, rare type of stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain bleeds, known as a hemorrhagic stroke – this could be the result of diseased or ‘damaged’ blood vessel walls.
Most strokes are caused by a blocked artery and it is always imperative to call for immediate medical attention if a stroke is suspected.
Symptoms of a stroke include:
- One side of face dropping
- Inability to lift arms
- Weakness or numbness in one arm
- Slurred speech
- Paralysis of one side of the body
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Confusion or difficulty understanding other people
- A sudden vision disturbance.
An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery as the result of diseased or ‘damaged’ blood vessel walls, forming a ‘balloon’ or ‘bubble’ alongside the artery lining. This causes further weakening of the blood vessel walls and allows the potential for the artery to burst. Aneurysms can affect any blood vessel, with more acute aneurysms being those that affect the artery leaving the heart and the arteries in the brain. When an aneurysm bursts, it is the cause of the bleed in a subarachnoid hemorrhage type of stroke, resulting in a bleed over the surface of the brain, into the fluid-filled space between the brain and the underside of the skull bone.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke say that roughly 40% of people who have a burst a brain aneurysm die within the first 24 hours. These chances are affected by factors such as age, general health, and how quickly medical care is received. For those who survive a brain aneurysm, the complications could include long-term brain damage and nervous system disorders, so they are always a severe event.
An aneurysm that has not burst is most likely to not show any symptoms. However, it can be picked up on a scan if large enough. The bigger the bulge, the higher the likely hood of it bursting, and therefore the higher risk.
An intact brain aneurysm 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
A burst aneurysm in the brain usually causes:
- Extreme headache
- Collapse, seizure, or coma
If you are ever considered about your health or that of a loved one, don’t hesitate to get immediate medical attention.