Recently, I read a sad newspaper story about a truck driver that died in his bunk at night due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. Truck driving as a profession includes many hours - if not days - spent alo...
Recently, I read a sad newspaper story about a truck driver that died in his bunk at night due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. Truck driving as a profession includes many hours – if not days – spent alone on the road. Unfortunately, when medical emergencies occur, the driver is sometimes unable to get much-needed help.
As a result, for this month’s article, I have decided to discuss brain aneurysms.
Basically, an aneurysm is an abnormal bulging or ballooning of a major blood vessel due to the weakening of its wall.
Aneurysms in the brain usually occur at the junctions of the large arteries at the base of the brain. The good news is that as long as the aneurysms is small and does not rupture, there is no immediate danger or risk to the individual. In many cases, people will live their entire life without knowing they have one.
Recent studies have shown that approximately 3-6% of adults in North America have aneurysms inside their brain. To add to this, only one in 100 people with an aneurysm will suffer a rupture. Anyone can develop a brain aneurysm, but they are more common in adults than children and in women than men.
Most brain aneurysms develop due to regular wear and tear of the arteries. Most often, they occur at joints or forks in arteries because these sites are weaker. In rare cases, trauma to the head can also sufficiently damage arteries to cause an aneurysm.
As I mentioned earlier, an unruptured brain aneurysm will usually produce no symptoms. However, if the aneurysm is large enough it may compress other structures in the brain, such as nerves. If this happens, patients may experience symptoms such as headaches, numbness or paralysis on one side of the face, vision changes, nausea and vomiting and a dilated pupil. If you remember reading my column on strokes, you will notice that many of the symptoms are very similar.
Presently, the risk factors of brain aneurysms are not clearly understood. However, there are several factors which will definitely increase the chances of developing one. Interestingly, cigarette smoking is the only consistent risk factor that has been demonstrated to increase the risk of developing an aneurysm. However, cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol have also been shown to increase the risk.
There is no proven way to predict when and if a brain aneurysm will rupture. However, if this does occur, it is considered a medical emergency. In fact, 40% of people whose aneurysm has ruptured do not survive longer than 24 hours.
Thus, it is vital for you to seek medical help if you ever experience an extremely severe headache, especially if it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
If your doctor suspects a ruptured aneurysm, he or she will most likely suggest a CT scan or MRI. In more severe instances, tests such as spinal taps or arteriograms may also be performed.
The most common treatment for a ruptured brain aneurysm is surgical clipping. This procedure entails placing a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm. An alternate treatment entails placing a coil inside the artery.The goal of both of these treatments is to stop the blood flow to the damaged blood vessel.
Although it is not possible to completely prevent brain aneurysms, there are a few modifiable risks that can be addressed. First of all, do not smoke cigarettes.
Next, limit caffeine and alcohol intake to a minimum. Lastly, keep your high blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. As you can see, many of these risk factors apply directly to truck drivers.
I encourage you to tell as many of your friends and colleagues what you have learned. By educating as many drivers as possible, we will be able to avoid sad situations like the one I read in the recent newspaper article. Until next time, drive safely!
– Dr. Christopher Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.
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