Last year we lost Actress Natasha Richardson when she died from bleeding in her skull caused by the fall she took on a ski slope. The world was devastated by her premature death, and the pinnacle of her career. The worst part was the fact that quick treatment could have saved her life. Yet, not much was known by ordinary people about how to treat it and when to be worried about a head injury. Most people think that if someone doesn’t lose consciousness, then they are fine after a bump on the head.
However, thanks to Natasha’s head injury and the most recent news story about Bret Michael’s; more people are taking notice about this rather common health concern.
So, what the heck is a brain hemorrhage? WebMD describes it as a type of stroke. It’s caused by an artery in the brain bursting and causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissues. This bleeding kills brain cells. There’s a lot of medical jargon that explains what happens to the brain when this occurs, but most people want the straight forward English version.
This is how it is broken down for us common folks:
*Swelling immediately occurs when the blood vessel bursts in the brain. (Cerebral edema)
*Pressure builds and brain cells die.
*Bleeding can occur inside the brain, between the brain and the membranes that cover it, between the layers of the brain’s covering or between the skull and the covering of the brain.
Watch this video about brain hemorrhage.
There are many causes for brain hemorrhage. They are as follows:
*Head trauma (as with Natasha Richardson): Injury is the most common cause of bleeding in the brain for those under 50.
*High blood pressure: we all know now that Bret Michaels suffered from it. Many millions of Americans suffer from high blood pressure as well.
*Blood vessel abnormalities: weaknesses in the blood vessels in and around the brain may be present at birth and diagnosed only if symptoms develop. As with Bret Michaels, it was likely that the many years of drug use caused his vessels to become weak.
*Amyloidal angiopathy: (what the hell is that? you say…) 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.
*Blood or bleeding disorders: Hemophilia and sickle cell anemia can both contribute to decreased levels of blood platelets. This means African-Americans are at higher risk for a brain hemorrhage.
*Liver disease: this condition is associated with generalized bleeding problems. Alcoholics face a higher likelihood of liver disease. That’s not to say that Bret Michaels had liver disease, but he did drink a lot.
*Brain tumors: self-explanatory!
How do you know if you have suffered from a brain hemorrhage? What if you look and feel just fine? Natasha Richardson didn’t think she needed medical help.
Here are the warning signs of a possible brain hemorrhage:
*a 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 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
Please note that these warning signs mimic a stroke and other medical problems. That’s why it is imperative that you seek medical help immediately. It’s better to find out that everything is fine than die from something that can be easily treated.
The good thing is that even though brain hemorrhage is common, there are ways to prevent it from happening to you. Bret Michaels was likely aware of his risks of having a brain hemorrhage long before it occurred to him.
The risk factors that you can erase from your history as follows:
* Don’t smoke. This was one of Bret Michaels’ undoing.
*If you take Coumadin (a blood thinner) or other warfarin that thins the blood, make sure to keep your appointments with your doctor so that they check your blood regularly.
* Don’t use drugs or drink. This increases your chances of having thinning blood vessels that will burst, and liver disease.
* Drive carefully. Auto accidents are one of the top causes for death in those under the age of 24.
* Treat your hypertension. According to WebMD, studies show that 80% of cerebral hemorrhage patients have a history of high blood pressure. The single most important thing you can do is control yours through diet, exercise, and medication.
Please do yourself and your family a favor. Take care of yourself and seek medical help.