Aneurysm Symptoms: 5 Signs of a Brain or Heart Aneurysm

Updated in July 2023

Aneurysm symptoms can vary depending on whether the aneurysm is located in the brain or heart. With brain aneurisms, patients will experience more head-related symptoms, like blurry vision, headaches and seizures. Heart aneurysms cause more chest-related symptoms, like shortness of breath, chest pain and dry cough.  

An aneurysm usually grows slowly, which is why symptoms may not be present or obvious at first. Once it grows to a large size, it can even start to press on other tissues, causing symptoms specific to its location. 

An aneurysm is the dilation of an arterial wall that can rupture and start to bleed out. The most common areas for aneurysms to occur are in the aorta, which is an artery that carries blood away from the blood, and in the cerebral arteries, which carry blood to the brain.

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Common symptoms

The main symptoms of an aneurysm vary depending on their location: 

Brain aneurysm symptoms 

A cerebral aneurysm is usually only discovered during a CT scan. However, when an aneurysm grows to a large size or ruptures, the following symptoms can emerge: 

  1. Very intense headache that worsens with time
  2. Weakness and tingling in the head 
  3. Dilated pupil in just 1 eye
  4. Seizures
  5. Blurry or double vision 

Some patients also report the sensation of a hot head or that they feel it is emptying. Read more about what causes a brain aneurysm and how they are diagnosed.

Heart aneurysm symptoms

Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm vary depending on the area of the artery affected. The most common symptoms include: 

  1. Strong pulse in the abdominal area 
  2. Constant chest pain
  3. Constant dry cough 
  4. Fatigue and shortness of breath
  5. Difficulty swallowing

If one or more of these symptoms emerge, you should seek assessment for diagnostic tests. The doctor may order a CT or MRI to confirm the presence of an aneurysm. 

What to do if you suspect one 

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, you should consult a neurologist for a suspected brain aneurysm, or a cardiologist for a suspect aortic aneurysm. The doctor will likely order further testing, like a CT, ultrasound or MRI to identify any possible aneurysms and guide treatment. 

Who is at most risk?

Although the specific cause of aneurysms is not entirely known, there are some risk factors associated with aneurysms. These include tobacco use, high blood pressure, a history of atherosclerosis and a history of an infected artery. 

Patients with a family history of aneurysms or that have had a serious accident or trauma also have a higher chance of developing an aneurysm. 

When to go to the hospital

It is important to proceed immediately to the hospital or to call an ambulance if you suspect an aneurysm as ruptures. Some symptoms that indicate a rupture include:

  • Very intense headache
  • Fainting
  • Constant vomiting and nausea 
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hard neck
  • Difficulty walking or sudden dizziness
  • Seizures 

These symptoms signify a very serious clinical emergency that can be life-threatening. You should call an ambulance or proceed to a hospital immediately.