Aneurysm Vs Stroke: Know How To Tell The Difference

Did you know that you don’t have to be “old” to have a heart disease? Your lifestyle plays a major role in how your heart and other organs function. An aneurysm and stroke are two such heart diseases that can affect anyone. Since the symptoms of the two are quite similar, not many know how they differ from each other.

Both the diseases can be life-threatening and require specific medical attention, and knowing how to tell the difference can improve your chances of getting treated successfully. Read on to know just how exactly an aneurysm and a stroke are different in terms of causes, symptoms, and treatment.

1. Causes

Causes of an aneurysm and stroke

An aneurysm is a bulge in the artery caused due to a damaged or injured arterial wall that makes it weak. This aneurysm can grow and burst, resulting in bleeding inside the body.1 Aneurysms commonly occur in the blood vessels of the brain or the aorta – the largest artery in the body.

On the other hand, a stroke is the result of poor blood supply to the brain. This occurs due to a clot or rupture in the arteries that carry nutrients and oxygen to the brain. As the brain cells do not get enough oxygen, they soon begin to die.2 A stroke can be of 2 types: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs due to a blood clot obstructing the blood flow, whereas a hemorrhagic stroke is caused due to a ruptured blood vessel.3 Hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a ruptured brain aneurysm.4

While an aneurysm can develop in any part of the body like the spleen, intestines, or aorta, a stroke occurs only in the brain.

2. Symptoms

Symptoms of an aneurysm and stroke

A brain aneurysm rarely shows any symptoms unless it bursts and if it shows any symptoms, they are not related to it.5 Some of the symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm are:6

  • Loss of vision or double vision
  • An extreme headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pain around the eye
  • Difficulty concentrating

More often than not, the patient is unaware of a brain aneurysm until it bursts, causing a sudden headache. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm, other than a headache, include:

  • Stiff neck or neck pain
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Vomiting
  • Fits
  • Coma

You can differentiate an ischemic stroke from a ruptured aneurysm by the lack of a sudden extreme headache. Other symptoms of a stroke include:7

  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty understanding people
  • Vision disturbance
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Trouble speaking
  • One side of the face dropping

3. Treatment

Treatment for an aneurysm and stroke

An aneurysm that hasn’t ruptured is initially treated with medication. Usually, these medicines focus on stopping the growth of the bulge, but if it continues to grow, it is surgically treated.

In the case of an ischemic stroke, which is a medical emergency, doctor work toward restoring the blood flow as soon as possible. The patient is given drugs that dissolve blood clots. Blood thinners or anticoagulants help to lower the blood pressure by preventing further clotting. A hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, requires a surgical procedure called craniotomy to repair the ruptured blood vessel and ensure that there are no blood clots restricting the blood flow.

How To Reduce The Risk

Keep your blood pressure under control to reduce the risk of stroke and an aneurysm

Although it is not possible to completely prevent a stroke or an aneurysm, keeping your blood pressure under control can help to reduce the risk. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can reduce the risk of a stroke by regulating your blood pressure. Physical inactivity, alcoholism, smoking, and a family history of strokes can put you at an increased risk of developing a stroke. Studies suggest that smoking and taking birth control pills are also associated with an increased risk of stroke.8 Overall, your best bet is to follow a healthy lifestyle to prevent most diseases, including a stroke or an aneurysm.