Overview: Cerebral hemorrhaging, also known as a brain or intracranial hemorrhage, is a type of stroke that occurs when an artery bursts in the brain. This causes blood to come rushing out into local tissue, which causes cerebral edema, or swelling in the brain. When the blood pools, it forms a mass, referred to as a hematoma. As a result of the increased pressure, blood flow is blocked, killing brain cells. Possible complications from a brain hemorrhage include loss of brain function, stroke and death. According to WebMD, cerebral hemorrhages account for 13 percent of strokes and can encompass any part of the brain, including the brain tissue or the space between the tissue and the membranes.
There are a number of factors that can raise your risk of a brain hemorrhage, including high blood pressure, aneurysm, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia and sickle cell anemia, and blood vessel abnormalities. For people under the age of 50, head trauma is the most common cause.
Certain medications, such as blood thinners used to prevent blood clot, heart attack and stroke, can also increase the risk of a brain hemorrhage. Plavix (clopidogrel) for example, has been associated with a higher risk of cerebral bleeding as well as other types of bleeds. Plavix is a widely used drug that is prescribed for patients at high risk for heart disease. Generic versions, which were approved in March, carry similar risks.
A new generation of blood thinners used to prevent blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation may be just as worrying. Pradaxa (dabigatran) is a relatively new anticoagulant that was associated with more adverse event reports than any other drug last year, including the greatest number of hemorrhages and health. Another disadvantage to Pradaxa and other new blood thinners such as Xarelto, is that there is no way to stop the hemorrhaging. Its predecessor warfarin, on the other hand, could be reversed with vitamin K.
According to WebMD, signs of a brain hemorrhage include:
- Sudden severe headache
- Seizures with no previous history of seizures
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased alertness; lethargy
- Changes in vision
- Tingling or numbness
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty writing or reading
- Loss of fine motor skills, such as hand tremors
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of balance
- An abnormal sense of taste
- Loss of consciousness
Many of these symptoms may be caused by something other than a cerebral hemorrhage.
Brain hemorrhaging is a life-threatening condition, so call 911 immediately if you suspect that you are having bleeding in the brain.
A doctor can diagnose a brain hemorrhage using imaging techniques such as a CT scan or MRI. A neurological exam, eye exam, blood tests or spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may also be performed.