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Aneurysm vs. Stroke: Understanding the Differences

As a practicing nurse, you will encounter patients dealing with various conditions daily. Knowing and understanding the conditions helps you deliver better patient care and achieve ideal outcomes. Throughout your career, you will face situations where a patient suffers from a condition that may initially be clear. Knowing the differences between various conditions will help you understand how to help your patients more effectively. “Aneurysm” and “stroke” are two medical terms people often use interchangeably. Both conditions are severe and need immediate intervention, but they are two different conditions with a few critical differences.

Aneurysms happen due to weakened artery walls, forming bulges in blood vessels. Those bulges can rupture and cause internal bleeding. Aneurysms can happen anywhere in the body, including the heart and brain. On the other hand, a stroke is when a blood vessel in a person’s brain ruptures. The term also defines blockage to your brain’s blood supply.

As similar as the two might seem on the surface, aneurysms and strokes have several vital differences. Learning how to identify the differences and treating the two conditions will play a critical role in your ability to help your patients. Today’s post will discuss the two conditions, how they affect the body, and how healthcare professionals can treat them.

Aneurysm vs. Stroke | What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm happens when a portion of an artery wall becomes weaker, making it widen or balloon abnormally, creating a bulge in the body. There are no specific causes for aneurysms, and they can occur in any body part. Some people are born with them, they can be hereditary, and lifestyle choices can also increase the risk of aneurysms. The most common occurrence of aneurysms are:

  • Cerebral Aneurysms: They form in the brain artery.
  • Aortic Aneurysms: They happen in the primary artery transporting blood from the heart to the body.
  • Splenic Artery Aneurysm: These occur in the artery in a spleen.
  • Mesenteric Artery Aneurysm: These happen in arteries carrying blood to the intestine.
  • Popliteal Artery Aneurysm: These form in the artery behind the knee.

Symptoms of Aneurysm

Aneurysms often develop without symptoms over several years. However, it can develop quickly or rupture, resulting in several possible symptoms based on the location. Depending on where the aneurysm occurs, a person can experience various symptoms, including:

  • Extremely painful headache
  • Sharp abdominal or back pain
  • Blue coloration in the body’s lowest extremities
  • Vision changes
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Upper back or chest pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Shock
  • A sense of impending doom
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Higher-pitched breathing sound

What is Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

An aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage is when a person suffers an aneurysm in the brain that causes bleeding around the brain. These hemorrhages often occur when an aneurysm on the brain’s surface ruptures and leaks blood inside the brain. Eventually, the blood builds up around the brain, filling up the skull and creating a lot of pressure on the brain.

These hemorrhages are caused by cerebral aneurysms and can create lifelong disabilities like cognitive dysfunction, emotional problems, epilepsy, brain damage, coma, and stroke-like symptoms.

Treatments for Aneurysm

Healthcare professionals diagnose aneurysms through a series of scans. If a person has a small aneurysm that has not ruptured, it may be treated using medications. The doctor may conduct scans periodically to see how the situation develops. If the aneurysm grows, they may need to perform a surgical procedure to address the issue.

Aneurysm vs. Stroke | What is a Stroke?

A stroke is defined by the blood supply to a part of the brain becoming disrupted, blocked, or a rupture occurring in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. When this happens, the brain tissue cannot receive oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to start dying within minutes.

Types of Stroke

There are primarily two categories of strokes that are further categorized into two more types each.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic strokes occur when blood vessels supplying blood to the brain are blocked, blocking the brain’s nutrient and oxygen supply. Ischemic strokes are further divided into two types:

  • Embolic Stroke: Occur when a clot that is formed elsewhere travels in the bloodstream and clogs a blood vessel in or leading to the brain.
  • Thrombotic Stroke: Caused by a blood clot (thrombus) in an artery going to the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when the blood vessels transporting blood to the brain develop a rupture and begin bleeding. If an artery bleeds into the brain, it cannot receive nutrients and oxygen. These strokes also cause pressure build-up in the skull and around the brain tissue, leading to more brain damage. Hemorrhagic strokes are divided into two types:

  • Intracerebral Hemorrhage: This is bleeding occurring in blood vessels within the brain.
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Bleeding is between the brain and the membrane covering it, called the subarachnoid area.

Symptoms of Stroke

Strokes are medical emergencies and require immediate medical intervention to save the life of the person who may be having a stroke. Identifying the signs and symptoms is critical to saving the life of a person suffering from a stroke. The symptoms of a stroke may include:

  • Trouble in comprehending other people or in speaking
  • Numbness or paralysis in the limbs or face
  • Issues in vision within one or both eyes
  • Severe headaches, dizziness, altered consciousness, and vomiting
  • Issues with walking

Treatments for Stroke

The treatment for strokes may be different, depending on the type of stroke a patient has:

Treatment for Hemorrhagic Stroke

Since these happen when a blood vessel has already ruptured, hemorrhagic strokes require surgical intervention to repair the damaged blood vessel. A physician may need to cut into the skill and use a specialized clip to secure the ruptured part of the blood vessel to save the patient’s life.

Treatment for Ischemic Stroke

Since it is an emergency, a person who is suffering from an ischemic stroke needs to be taken to the hospital within a few hours of developing symptoms. Depending on its severity, a doctor may prescribe medication designed to break up blood clots. They may need to perform a surgical procedure to remove the clot from the affected blood vessel.

Understanding the Risk Factors for Aneurysms & Strokes

While two different conditions, aneurysms and strokes share several risk factors, including:

  • Untreated and uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • A medical history of stroke or cardiovascular issues.
  • Family history of strokes, aneurysms, and cardiovascular issues.
  • Due to the damage it causes to blood vessels, smoking also increases the risk of these two conditions.
  • People can become more prone to these events as they grow older.

Aneurysm vs. Stroke | Reducing the Risk

Considering some of the risk factors a person cannot control, like family history and aging, there is no foolproof method to prevent either condition from ever happening. However, it is possible for a person to reduce the chances by controlling their blood pressure. Some of the ways to do that include:

  • Following a nutritious and healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly every day
  • Maintaining a healthier weight
  • Taking medicine prescribed by physicians regularly

Overall, living a healthier lifestyle is the only way to minimize the chances of suffering from an aneurysm or stroke. Patient education is also a critical part of your job as the primary point of contact for patients and their families.

Speaking of patient education, is it almost time for you to begin pursuing nursing continuing education courses for your recertification? With your busy schedule, it can be challenging to find affordable courses you can take on to complete the credit hours necessary for your recertification. Fortunately, online nursing CEUs like the ones available at Fast CE For Less at https://fastceforless.com/ce-courses-for-nursing/ are easy to access, affordable, and convenient. Explore the courses available there to expand your skills, get recertified, and continue helping your patients.

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