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Support groups
  • Baltimore Brain Aneurysm Foundation Support Group

    Lutherville-Timonium, MD

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  • Bay Area Aneurysm and Vascular Malformation Support Group

    San Francisco, CA

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  • Beth Israel Deaconess Brain Aneurysm Support Group

    Boston, MA

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Ruptured Aneurysm Basics

An aneurysm that has bled is called a ruptured aneurysm. When an aneurysm ruptures, the blood from the aneurysm usually goes into the spinal fluid in the space surrounding the brain (called the subarachnoid space); this type of bleeding is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH).

A ruptured aneurysm usually causes a sudden severe headache, often described as the “worst headache of my life.” Other signs of rupture are:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seizure
  • A drooping eyelid
  • A dilated pupil
  • Pain above and behind the eye
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness and/or numbness

Although the bleeding resulting from a rupture probably lasts only seconds, there is much that can happen as a result.

For instance, the blood can destroy or damage brain cells. It can also cause the arteries to narrow erratically, a condition called vasospasm, reducing blood flow to vital areas of the brain. Vasospasm can cause an ischemic stroke (also called a cerebral infarction) if the arteries narrow to the extent that not enough blood gets to the brain tissue.

If there is a lot of blood in the spinal fluid, it can slow or block the spinal fluid’s normal movement. This may lead to the buildup of fluid in the cavities of the brain, causing pressure on brain tissue — a condition called hydrocephalus.

People who have suffered a ruptured aneurysm may have temporary or permanent deficits. These may include vision, speech, and perception problems; memory and thinking problems; fatigue; and/or issues with balance and coordination. You can learn more about these and how to cope with them in our Recovery Guide.

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