What Causes a Brain Bleed?

A brain bleed, also known as a cerebral hemorrhage or intracranial hemorrhage, occurs when there is bleeding within the brain tissue or the spaces surrounding the brain. Brain bleeds can result from various causes, each of which involves a disruption in the normal blood vessel structure or function. Here are some common causes of brain bleeds:

  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Chronic high blood pressure weakens the walls of blood vessels over time, making them more susceptible to rupture. The increased pressure can lead to the formation of an aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel) or weaken blood vessel walls, resulting in a hemorrhage.
  • Aneurysm Rupture: An aneurysm is a weakened, ballooned area of a blood vessel. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can cause sudden and severe bleeding into the brain. Aneurysms can be present from birth or develop later in life.
  • Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) Rupture: An AVM is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins. If an AVM ruptures, it can cause bleeding into the brain tissue.
  • Trauma: A traumatic injury, such as a severe blow to the head, can damage blood vessels and lead to bleeding within the brain. This type of hemorrhage is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or intracranial hematoma.
  • Blood-Thinning Medications: Some medications that reduce blood clotting (anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs) can increase the risk of bleeding in the brain, especially if the person experiences head trauma.
  • Bleeding Disorders: Conditions that affect the body’s ability to form blood clots properly, such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease, can increase the risk of spontaneous bleeding in the brain.
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy (CAA): CAA is a condition in which amyloid protein deposits accumulate in the walls of blood vessels, making them more prone to rupture and causing brain bleeds, particularly in older adults.
  • Ischemic Stroke Transformation: Sometimes, an ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel) can progress to a hemorrhagic stroke, where bleeding occurs into the area of the brain affected by the blocked vessel.
  • Vascular Malformations: Other types of vascular malformations, such as cavernous malformations or dural arteriovenous fistulas, can also cause bleeding in the brain.
  • Drug Abuse: Certain drugs, particularly stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines, can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels and increase the risk of brain bleeds.
  • Certain Medical Conditions: Conditions like liver disease, clotting disorders, or brain tumors can increase the risk of bleeding in the brain.

It’s important to note that brain bleeds can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms can include severe headache, weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, confusion, and loss of consciousness. If you suspect someone is experiencing a brain bleed, seek emergency medical care. Diagnosing the specific cause of a brain bleed often involves medical imaging, such as CT scans or MRI, and consultation with medical specialists.