December 07, 2022

Are Brain Aneurysms Hereditary? 

Man recovering from brain aneurysm

A brain aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge in a blood vessel. Aneurysms typically don’t cause symptoms unless they leak blood or burst. Ruptured aneurysms produce a severe headache and can lead to a stroke. 

If a family member has developed a brain aneurysm, you may wonder if the condition is hereditary. We explain the connection between family history and brain aneurysms below.

Understanding Brain Aneurysms

Most brain aneurysms are small and don’t rupture. Consequently, it’s possible to have one and never know it. 

In some cases, an intact brain aneurysm produces enough pressure on surrounding brain tissue and nerves that it causes symptoms that can include:

  • Dilation of one pupil
  • Pain above or behind one eye 
  • Double vision and other vision changes
  • Numbness on one side of the face

When a brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures, it causes a sudden, severe headache. It can also cause sensitivity to light and a stiff neck. 

A ruptured aneurysm is fatal in approximately 50% of cases, and of those who survive this type of event, only half make a significant recovery. So, a ruptured or leaking aneurysm requires emergency medical treatment. 

Brain Aneurysms and Family History

Research into the causes of brain aneurysms is ongoing. While most people who suffer a leaking or burst aneurysm don’t have a family member who’s had the same experience, studies suggest there may be a hereditary component. 

Consequently, it’s important to tell your doctor if a family member suffers a burst aneurysm. They may recommend that you get screened for the condition. 

Other brain aneurysm risk factors include:

Your risk of a brain aneurysm is also higher if you have specific genetic conditions, including:

  • Fibromuscular dysplasia
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Moyamoya syndrome

You can’t change most risk factors for developing a brain aneurysm. But quitting smoking and managing high blood pressure can help lower your risk. 

Screening and Treatment for Brain Aneurysms

If appropriate, your doctor can prescribe a noninvasive imaging procedure (an MRI or CT scan) to get pictures they use to detect aneurysms. If they determine you have one, they’ll consider multiple factors when deciding what approach to recommend. 

For example, if your overall health is good, the aneurysm is small, and your doctor believes the risk of leaking or bursting is low, they may only encourage you to make lifestyle changes necessary to further reduce your risk. 

If treatment is necessary, it can include surgical clipping of the aneurysm or a procedure called endovascular therapy. In that procedure, a catheter is inserted in your groin or wrist and navigated to the aneurysm site. There, it positions a device that causes blood clotting in and around the aneurysm that keeps blood from flowing into it, thereby reducing or eliminating the risk of bursting.   

Talk With Your Doctor About Your Brain Aneurysm Risk

If you’re wondering if brain aneurysms are hereditary and want to get your doctor’s perspective, they’re happy to talk with you about your risk and order screening if appropriate. They may also refer you to a Baptist Health neurologist

Learn More.