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Brain Aneurysms Come With Few Warning Signs, Says Greenwich Doctor

Dr. Frederick Nahm, NeuroCare Health Stroke Director at Greenwich Hospital.
Dr. Frederick Nahm, NeuroCare Health Stroke Director at Greenwich Hospital. Photo Credit: Submitted

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Brain aneurysms, such as the one that led to the death of Stamford resident and WABC-TV Channel 7 reporter Lisa Colagrossi last week, are typically asymptomatic and difficult to predict, doctors say.

A brain aneurysm, basically a structural defect in the blood vessel, could be something you're born with and never know about, said Dr. Frederick Nahm, NeuroCare Health Stroke Director of Greenwich Hospital.

Over time, he said, that weakness can get worse; when it ruptures it leads to what he describes as a "thunderclap" headache. The symptoms are not subtle and happen out of the blue. They often include, along with a severe headache, double vision, slurred speech, and acute pain. Calling 9-1-1 is your best course of action because time is of the essence.

"If the aneurysm ruptures in the field or in the community, you have a one in five chance of making it," he said.

If that's not scary enough, the fact that there are no real warning signs make this even more frightening. A family history is not necessarily a contributing factor.

Typically, brain aneurysms happen in the 30 to 60 age range.

"It's not a disease of the elderly, which is very important to know," he said. Women are affected slightly more than men but, overall, it's not very gender specific.

The bottom line: "You can't really prevent them so much as manage them," he said.

That means thinking about your risk factors, which include high blood pressure, illicit drug use, and family history.

Among the best things you can do is surveillance. If you have strong suspicions you have one, insurance will most likely cover a preventative screening.

More information can be found on the Brain  Aneurysm Foundation website at http://www.bafound.org/ .

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