Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)

Head | Pathology | Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) (Disease)


An intracranial hemorrhage is a hemorrhage, or bleeding, within the skull.

The symptoms of a brain hemorrhage can vary. They depend on the location of the bleeding, the severity of the bleeding, and the amount of tissue affected. Symptoms may develop suddenly or over time. They may progressively worsen or suddenly appear.

If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you may have a brain hemorrhage. This is a life-threatening condition. The symptoms include:

(1) a sudden severe headache

(2) seizures with no previous history of seizures

(3) weakness in an arm or leg

(4) nausea or vomiting

(5) decreased alertness; lethargy

(6) changes in vision

(7) tingling or numbness

(8)difficulty speaking or understanding speech

(9) difficulty swallowing

(10) difficulty writing or reading

(11) loss of fine motor skills, such as hand tremors

(12) loss of coordination

(13) loss of balance

(14) an abnormal sense of taste

(15) loss of consciousness

Causes and Risk factors

Intracranial bleeding occurs when a blood vessel within the skull is ruptured or leaks. It can result from physical trauma (as occurs in head injury) or nontraumatic causes (as occurs in hemorrhagic stroke) such as a ruptured aneurysm. Anticoagulant therapy, as well as disorders with blood clotting can heighten the risk that an intracranial hemorrhage will occur.

There are several risk factors and causes of brain hemorrhages. The most common include:

(1) Head trauma. Injury is the most common cause of bleeding in the brain for those under 50.

(2) High blood pressure. This chronic condition can, over a long period of time, weaken blood vessel walls. Untreated high blood pressure is a major preventable cause of brain hemorrhages.

(3) Aneurysm. This is a weakening in a blood vessel wall that swells. It can burst and bleed into the brain, leading to a stroke.

(4) Blood vessel abnormalities. Weaknesses in the blood vessels in and around the brain may be present at birth and diagnosed only if symptoms develop.

(5) Amyloid angiopathy. This is an abnormality of the blood vessel walls that sometimes occurs with aging. It may cause many small, unnoticed bleeds before causing a large one.

(6) Blood or bleeding disorders. Hemophilia and sickle cell anemia can both contribute to decreased levels of blood platelets.

(7) Liver disease. This condition is associated with increased bleeding in general.

(8) Brain tumors.

Diagnosis and Treatment

An intracerebral hemorrhage is a severe condition requiring prompt medical attention. It may develop quickly into a life-threatening situation. Treatment depends on the location, cause, and amount of the hemorrhage. S...