Brain aneurysms have the potential to be fatal, but with quick treatment, they aren’t always.

This article discusses when a brain aneurysm can kill you, how common fatal brain aneurysms are, and some warning signs that might point toward a ruptured brain aneurysm.

While a brain aneurysm itself may not necessarily be fatal, a ruptured brain aneurysm can kill you ― and here’s why.

A brain aneurysm — also called a cerebral or intracranial aneurysm — can develop when the walls of a blood vessel in the brain begin to weaken. Over time, the pressure of the blood flowing through the weakened blood vessel can cause it to bulge and fill with blood.

An aneurysm can eventually rupture or burst, causing blood to hemorrhage out into the surrounding tissues. If this happens, it can lead to serious complications, including seizures, coma, and even death if not treated quickly.

Statistics suggest that brain aneurysms affect roughly 3.2% of people globally, with most people affected being between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.

Research suggests that a ruptured brain aneurysm is fatal in approximately 25% of people within the first 24 hours ― and 50% of people with the condition over a 3-month period.

Overall, even with treatment, roughly 40% of people who experience a ruptured brain aneurysm die from complications.

Some brain aneurysms, especially smaller aneurysms, may not have any symptoms at all if they haven’t ruptured. But as the aneurysm increases in size, or ruptures, it can cause noticeable and potentially life threatening symptoms.

Research suggests that only around 10–15% of unruptured brain aneurysms cause symptoms. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • pain behind the eyes
  • face numbness or weakness
  • dilated pupils
  • double or blurry vision

If an aneurysm begins to leak, it can also cause a severe headache called a sentinel headache. A sentinel headache is often one of the first signs that an aneurysm is at risk of rupturing and requires treatment as soon as possible.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of a brain aneurysm, treatment can help lower the risk of it rupturing and causing serious complications.

Treatment options differ depending on the location of the aneurysm, how big it is, and the risk of rupture. Some of these treatments may include:

  • Monitoring. If you have a small aneurysm that doesn’t appear to be at risk of rupturing, your doctor may decide to hold off on treatment. Instead, they may recommend periodic imaging to monitor any changes.
  • Surgical clipping. Surgical clipping involves “clipping” the base of the aneurysm to stop it from growing and reduce the risk of rupturing. Over time, without blood flow, the aneurysm will shrink and disappear.
  • Endovascular coiling. Endovascular coiling is a procedure that involves threading a catheter into the aneurysm and releasing a tiny metal coil. Once the metal coil is in place, it prevents blood flow and seals off the aneurysm.

If an aneurysm has ruptured, research indicates that receiving treatment within the first 24 hours can reduce the risk of death. Treatment for a ruptured aneurysm usually involves surgery to stop the bleeding and monitoring for life threatening complications.

Do brain aneurysms hurt?

Smaller unruptured brain aneurysms can cause some head pain, but upward of 90% of unruptured brain aneurysms produce no symptoms.

But when a brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures, it can cause severe head pain and other symptoms. Other symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm may include:

A ruptured brain aneurysm is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. If you or someone around you is experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s important to get medical help as quickly as possible.

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A brain aneurysm can develop when the walls of the blood vessels in the brain become weakened and begin to bulge. A brain aneurysm can be life threatening because it can eventually rupture and cause serious complications or even death.

If you or someone else is experiencing a severe and sudden headache or any other symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm, seeking medical attention immediately could be life saving.