Chinese President Xi Jinping is reportedly suffering from a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized late 2021, according to ANI.
A brain aneurysm, if left untreated can be potentially fatal. Even as Xi Jinping attempts to stay in power for a historic third term, speculation about his health continues.
So, what is a brain aneurysm? What causes aneurysms? What are the symptoms of a brain aneurysm? And how can you treat it?
We spoke to Dr. Sanjay Saxena, Principal Director & Head of Neurology at Max Hospitals, Delhi.
What Is a Brain Aneurysm?
A brain aneurysm is a ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain, which arises from the weakening of the walls of a vein or artery. The blood vessel grows larger at a specific point, swelling like a blister. This weakens the walls of the blood vessels, making it prone to rupture.
Brain aneurysms are also called intracranial aneurysms or cerebral aneurysms. If left untreated, or if a blood vessel becomes far too thin, an aneurysm can rupture and bleed into your brain, causing a stroke.
This is called a hemmorhaegic stroke or a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH).
The most terrifying part about aneurysms is that they can exist completely undetected and without any noticeable symptoms till it's too late. Or are there some signs you can keep an eye out for?
What Are The Symptoms of a Brain Aneurysm?
The symptoms of a brain aneurysm are often non-existent or unnoticeable till the aneurysm actually ruptures. "Usually aneurysm isn't detected unless it enlarges. Before it ruptures, it's almost impossible to detect," Dr. Sanjay Saxena says.
This is primarily because aneurysms are miniscule - less than 10 millimetres in most cases. But with that said, there are two sets of symptoms we'll look at - symptoms of an aneurysm before it ruptures, and symptoms after a rupture.
Pre-rupture symptoms include eye pain, difficulty in eye movement, and changes to vision. This happens because an aneurysm can balloon and press on the nerves that manage vision, even before it ruptures. In some rare cases, a pre-rupture aneurysm can also cause headaches.
"Once an aneurysm ruptures, it will give rise to a lot of symptoms," Dr. Saxena adds.
Post-rupture symptoms are much more evident and noticeable because they include the rapid onset of what feels like "the worst headache ever", nausea, vomiting, loss of balance and consciousness, dilated pupils, confusion, drowziness, light sensitivity, back pain, leg pain, and problems with any function that's controlled by the nerves in the brain (which unsurprisingly, is a LOT of them).
"It will feel like the most painful headache you've ever experienced, like a headache you've never experienced in your life. And if you experience this, always show it to a doctor immediately."Dr. Sanjay Saxena, Principal Director, Head of Neurology, Max Hospitals, Patparganj & Vaishali
A ruptured aneurysm can quickly escalate to a coma or even death, if left untreated.
"If left untreated, 40 to 60 percent of aneurysm patients will end up dead.Dr. Sanjay Saxena, Principal Director, Head of Neurology, Max Hospitals, Patparganj & Vaishali
What Are the Causes of a Brain Aneurysm?
While the exact causes, mechanism of growth, and reasons for rupture of an aneurysm aren't known, there are several risk factors that could increase your chances of suffering an aneurysm. These include:
High blood pressure
Use of narcotics like cocaine or methamphetamine
Dr Saxena adds that you should get checked for aneurysms if you have a family history of aneurysms.
Apart from this, he says an unhealthy lifestyle marked by binge drinking, smoking, and not getting your nutrients can all contribute to causing an aneurysm and in many cases, even rupture an aneurysm.
"With the proper care and lifestyle many people will never even know they had an aneurysm their whole life. We notice unruptured aneurysms in many patients. An unhealthy lifestyle will accelerate and even lead to an ruptured aneurysm," he adds.
Childhood infections like meningitis can also lead to a weakening of arterial walls, leading to an aneurysm later in life.
What's The Treatment For a Brain Aneurysm?
If you experience the crippling pain of an aneurysm and you're rushed to a hospital in time, the doctors will first perform a scan to identify the condition of the aneurysm and then immediately proceed to treat you.
Dr. Saxena says that it's important to be aware of the signs of an aneurysm - usually the overwhelmingly painful headache is a dead giveaway - and act on it immediately.
"We do an angiography of the brain and depending on the site and size, we perform an endovascular procedure with a coil that supports and fills in the gap in the aneurysm. We stem the gap and use something to fill it, to prevent further leakage."Dr. Sanjay Saxena, Principal Director, Head of Neurology, Max Hospitals, Patparganj & Vaishali
"It's not always fatal. If it's treated correctly and if the person doesn't have any other disabilities or issues, they can recover from the aneurysm in a matter of few days to weeks depending on when they were brought to the doctor."