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An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall, usually where it branches.

As blood passes through the weakened blood vessel, the blood pressure causes a small area to bulge outwards like a balloon.

Aneurysms can develop in any blood vessel in the body, but the 2 most common places are:

  • the abdominal aorta (the artery that transports blood away from the heart to the rest of the body)
  • the brain

This topic is about brain aneurysms. There’s a separate topic about abdominal aortic aneurysm.

About brain aneurysms

The medical term for an aneurysm that develops inside the brain is an intracranial or cerebral aneurysm.

Most brain aneurysms only cause noticeable symptoms if they burst (rupture).

This leads to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, where bleeding caused by the ruptured aneurysm can cause extensive brain damage and symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • a sudden agonising headache – it’s been described as a “thunderclap headache”, similar to a sudden hit on the head, resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
  • stiff neck
  • sickness and vomiting
  • pain on looking at light

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