A brain aneurysm is an abnormal widening of an artery. A bulging sac forms and can burst, resulting in massive bleeding and a hemorrhagic stroke. People are typically born with aneurysms and it sometimes takes 40 to 50 years before causing problems. Or it may never cause problems.
An estimated 6 million people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm, or 1 in 50 people. According to Culicchia Neurological Interventional Neuroradiologist Robert Dawson, aneurysms are very difficult to detect in advance although people with a strong family history of brain aneurysms or polycystic kidney disease should be followed by a physician. In the meantime, lives can be saved by knowing the symptoms of a brain aneurysm, which often come on suddenly:
- Severe headache
- Neck pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Knowing these signs was lifesaving for Cynthia Kemp of Mandeville. As a volunteer for the Aces Against Aneurysms tennis tournament, she was familiar with the symptoms of brain aneurysms. One day, while showering, she came down with a horrific headache. Fortunately, Cynthia was aware of the symptoms and insisted she go to the emergency room. She was transferred to the care of Dr. Jason Wilson at West Jefferson Medical Center, who repaired the ruptured aneurysm using a minimally invasive procedure. She was back on the tennis court a few months later. That was five years ago and she is still doing fine today, aneurysm-free.