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Hemorrhagic Stroke vs Aneurysm: What's the Difference?

Hemorrhagic Stroke vs Aneurysm: What's the Difference?

It’s not uncommon for people to get confused when it comes to a hemorrhagic stroke vs aneurysm. In fact, some people even use these terms interchangeably. However, there are clear differences between a stroke and an aneurysm, and knowing these can potentially save a life.

10 Signs of Aneurysm to Watch Out For

Hemorrhagic Stroke vs Aneurysm: Definitions

Before we get to the differences between a hemorrhagic stroke vs aneurysm, we first need to understand what these conditions are.

Here is a breakdown of each condition:

What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a condition wherein the walls of an artery start to weaken, and then bulge, or “balloon” out. Over time, if the aneurysm bulges even more due to high blood pressure and weak artery walls, it’s possible for it to rupture or pop. This can be very deadly, especially if it happens to an artery in the brain.

Aneurysms can be caused by a number of things, but the usual culprits in older adults are both high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of cholesterol, fats, and plaque in a person’s artery. This both restricts blood flow and also causes thinning of the artery walls.

The older a person gets, the more they become prone to having aneurysms. This is because as we grow older, our arteries naturally start to weaken, and we also become more prone to high blood pressure.

However, aneurysms are not conditions that only affect older people. In young individuals, aneurysms may have formed before birth (due to congenital causes) or developed because of conditions that make the walls of their blood vessels weaker.

The Types of Aneurysm and Their Causes

What is a Hemorrhagic Stroke?

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when blood vessel in the brain ruptures and starts to bleed. Hemorrhagic strokes can happen within the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage) or they could happen in the space surrounding the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage). A ruptured aneurysm commonly results in a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

What happens next is that the bleeding in the brain increases pressure on the brain itself. This causes symptoms such as weakness or numbness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, loss of vision, etc.

Aside from putting pressure on the brain, the hemorrhage might impede the flow of blood to the brain itself. This can cause permanent damage, as some brain cells start to die off within 5 minutes if they don’t get enough oxygen.

This is why it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you experience the symptoms above.

Hemorrhagic Stroke vs Aneurysm: Differences

You might have already noticed that there are connections between a hemorrhagic stroke vs aneurysm. And while an aneurysm can directly lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, they are very different conditions.

First off, an aneurysm doesn’t only happen in a person’s brain. It’s possible to develop an aortic aneurysm, or an aneurysm in either the chest or the abdomen.

Second, aneurysms on their own might pose a potential health risk, but they are not necessarily endangering a person’s life. It’s possible for a person to have an aneurysm for a long time, yet it might not rupture or cause any outward symptoms.

hemorrhagic stroke vs aneurysm

In contrast, a brain hemorrhage is a serious medical concern, and should be treated as soon as possible.

Third is that having a hemorrhagic stroke causes immediate and noticeable symptoms. This means that as soon as a person shows the symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke, it would be best to take them to the doctor.

In contrast, most aneurysms tend to go undetected. This is because they usually don’t show any outward signs. In fact, most of the time, aneurysms are only found when they have either ruptured, or when a person undergoes imaging tests, usually for other health reasons.

This is why as we grow older, it is very important to undergo yearly checkups. For people with increased risk, such as those with first-degree relatives with ruptured aneurysm, a focused monitoring may be advised. This way, they can be dealt with early on, and your doctor is aware of your condition.

The sooner an aneurysm is dealt with, the less of a risk it would pose to your health.

Learn more about Strokes and Aneurysms here.

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Sources

Brain Bleed/Hemorrhage (Intracranial Hemorrhage): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14480-brain-bleed-hemorrhage-intracranial-hemorrhage, Accessed February 15, 2021

Hemorrhagic Strokes (Bleeds) | American Stroke Association, https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke/hemorrhagic-strokes-bleeds, Accessed February 15, 2021

Stroke vs. aneurysm: symptoms and treatment | Edward-Elmhurst Health, https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2020/12/stroke-vs-aneurysm/, Accessed February 15, 2021

Types of Stroke | cdc.gov, https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/types_of_stroke.htm, Accessed February 15, 2021

Types of Aneurysms – Penn Medicine, https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/heart-and-vascular-blog/2018/june/types-of-aneurysms, Accessed February 15, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 17
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.
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