Actress Emilia Clarke, 32, has shared photos of herself following surgery to treat a ruptured brain aneurysm.
The photos were revealed after the Game of Thrones’ actress revealed how she underwent emergency brain surgery in 2011 at the age of 24 – and a second surgery in 2013.
It’s estimated brain aneurysms affect somewhere between one in 20 and one in 100 of us in the UK, according to the NHS.
Considerably fewer (one in 12,500 people) suffer from a ruptured brain aneurysm, like Clarke. While Clarke was diagnosed with her first brain aneurysm at the age of just 24, they tend to affect people aged 40 and above.
“However, they can occur any time from birth, and affect anyone,” explains Dr James Teo, Consultant Neurologist at The Wellington Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK) and Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
What exactly is a brain aneurysm?
“An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery caused by weakness in the artery wall,” says Teo. “Aneurysms can occur anywhere in the body, but the brain is the most common places for an aneurysm to develop.”
While “silent” brain aneurysms can occur in healthy people, without causing problems, the danger is when these rupture causing a bleed on the brain – which is known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage.
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“This tends to be fatal or cause severe brain damage and require extensive rehabilitation,” Teo explains.
What causes brain aneurysms?
Brain aneurysms have a “varied” number of risk factors, explains Teo.
These can include:
- A weakness or malformation of the blood vessels at birth
- Connective tissue disorders
- High blood pressure.
- Family history
What are the signs and symptoms of a brain aneurysm?
As mentioned earlier, a brain aneurysm is not in itself a reason for concern.
“Some people can be born with brain aneurysms and make it all the way through their life without ever knowing,” explains Teo, citing a figure from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation which says an estimated 50 to 80% of all brain aneurysms do not rupture.
On the other hand, a ruptured aneurysm is a major cause for concern. If this happens, severe symptoms will come on very quickly.
Symptoms can include:
- A ‘thunderclap headache’ – a headache that is instantaneously agonising
- Pain on looking at light
- A stiff neck
- Violent sickness or vomiting
How do you prevent a brain aneurysm?
The NHS website recommends avoiding the following activities in order to prevent both developing a brain aneurysm and the risk of a possible rupture:
- Eating a high-fat diet
- Not controlling high blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
For more information on subarachnoid haemorrhages and other types of stroke, call the Stroke Association on 0303 3033 100, or visit the Stroke Association website.