Stroke and Aneurysm: How are they different?

  • Stroke and aneurysm are conditions that involve blood vessels in the brain.
  • An aneurysm may lead to a certain type of stroke.
  • Both conditions may be life-threatening. 

Stroke and aneurysm are both dangerous – affecting any age, and permanently damaging the brain. According to neurologist Dr. Jessica Carpenter, these two conditions both involve blood vessels in the head.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood supply to parts of the brain is cut off, causing the brain tissue to die due to loss of oxygen and nutrients. Dr. Carpenter says there are two types of stroke: ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs due to blockage in a blood vessel that causes permanent damage to the brain tissue behind the blood vessel. It is more common than hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain.

Signs of a stroke

It’s crucial to get treatment within three hours of a stroke’s onset, so it’s important to know the key symptoms of stroke to watch out for:

  • Numbness or inability to move your arm, leg, or face
  • Blurry, blackened, or double vision problems
  • Trouble speaking
  • Headache with nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble walking, losing your balance, or feeling dizzy

Call 911 immediately when you experience these symptoms. 

What is an aneurysm?

Aneurysm refers to an abnormal bulging of a blood vessel wall, explains Dr. Carpenter. When there is bleeding in the brain due to an aneurysm rupture, the condition is considered a hemorrhagic stroke. 

Signs of an aneurysm?

Dr. Carpenter says aneurysms don’t often have symptoms until a vessel wall breaks and causes a hemorrhage. Some cases of aneurysm may grow large enough to damage nerves in the eye.

When an aneurysm breaks, symptoms include:

  • a sudden and severe headache 
  • neck pain
  • seizures
  • altered consciousness

The condition requires medical emergency, so call 911 when you experience these symptoms, advises Dr. Carpenter. 

Risk factors for stroke and aneurysm

You have a higher chance of experiencing a stroke if you have the following risk factors:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • female sex
  • being African American, Asian Americans, and Hispanic American
  • a family history of stroke
  • old age

The risk factors for aneurysm include:

  • age
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • a family history of the disease 
  • head traumas
  • brain tumors
  • malformations of the arteries and veins

According to Dr. Robert Segal, co-founder of LabFinder.com, family members of aneurysm patients should get screened for the condition. Patients with unruptured intracranial aneurysms must be monitored yearly for two to three years. When the aneurysm is stable, they should be monitored every two to five years.

How to decrease your risk of a stroke or aneurysm

To help reduce your risk of developing a stroke or an aneurysm, it’s crucial to quit smoking and to control your high blood pressure, advises Dr. Segal. You can also reduce your risk of developing aneurysm by managing your cholesterol, regularly exercising, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding illicit drugs, stimulant medications, and excessive straining, says Dr. Segal. 

Source: Reader’s Digest


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