Any abnormalities in the brain terrify us. It’s one of the most vital parts of our system. Any unusual condition that has to do with the majority sees it as a medical emergency. The notion of having brain aneurysms, especially, would frighten us. So, it’s alarming to think that right now, we might have one and not even know it.
But before we rush ourselves to the ER, the Philippines’ premier healthcare institution, Makati Medical Center, is giving us the facts on brain aneurysms and when we should be wary of it.
Aneurysms are blood-filled balloon-like bulges in the walls of blood vessels. Anywhere a blood vessel is, an aneurysm can develop. They are formed when there is a weakening in the walls that may be caused by a myriad of things. Anything that can cause weakness in blood vessels, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or cigarette smoking, can cause aneurysms. But they can also be genetic if caused by a genetic disease such as certain circulatory disorders.
Aneurysms are often harmless and go undetected, unless they rupture. Many people only find out about their aneurysm when they rupture or when brain aneurysms become very big and start to compress on some brain structures. When the latter happens, it could lead to malfunctions in some areas of the brain, which can cause blindness or misalignment of the eyes.
Brain aneurysms, once ruptured, have a 50 percent mortality rate. But endovascular neurosurgeon Carlos Francis A. Santiago, MD of Makati Medical Center Department of Neurological Sciences tells us that majority of aneurysms will not rupture in your lifetime. The general population only has a two percent chance of getting a brain aneurysm. “There are about 100 million Filipinos and if two pwrcent of the population have aneurysms, then two million Filipinos have aneurysms but they just don’t know it.”
Aneurysms can be treated even if these have not ruptured yet. “Depending on the characteristics of an aneurysm, it can be treated even if it has not yet ruptured or not yet causing a problem.”
Because this happens rarely, a large population of people with aneurysms live their lives without having it treated. Dr. Santiago advises that those who have a history of aneurysms in their family get checked. Those who live with the risk factors of aneurysms such as diabetes and hypertension should see a doctor too. “An MRI and MRA should be able to detect if a brain aneurysm is present,” he explains.
“MRI” stands for magnetic resonance imaging. MRI, which uses magnetic fields and radio waves, passes through bone and takes pictures of soft tissue, such as tendons, blood vessels, and the brain. “MRA” stands for magnetic resonance angiography, which gives a view of specific blood vessels, such as the arteries and veins.
If you are experiencing pain above and behind the eye, numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the face, and vision changes, you could have a large aneurysm. If you are struck with a sudden and extremely painful headache, double vision, nausea, vomiting, and/or loss of consciousness, it might be time to rush to the doctor, as these are symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm.
“Treatment is very possible for such cases,” shares Dr. Santiago. “Apart from the traditional and tried and tested method that we have of putting a clip on the aneurysm during open surgery, we now have the option of a less invasive treatment.” Patients can now undergo Endovascular Coiling, which entails making a small incision in the groin area, where a catheter is inserted to reach the brain and release coils with electrical current which will induce clotting (embolization), so as to block the blood from getting into the aneurysm.
Of course, it’s better to prevent or manage than to treat. Dr. Santiago concludes, “A healthy lifestyle of eating a diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products, exercising regularly, but moderately, quitting smoking, and managing high blood pressure or high cholesterol can help prevent or manage an existing brain aneurysm.”
For more information, contact MakatiMed On-Call at (02) 8888 999, email [email protected], or visit www.makatimed.net.ph.
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