This Is How Genetics Influences Your Likelihood To Have A Brain Aneurysm

There's plenty to worry about when it comes to our health. Sometimes, brain issues like aneurysms and stroke can be the first thing that comes to mind when we feel even the tiniest pang of a headache — but how likely are you to have a brain aneurysm, and can genetics influence it?

Brain aneurysms happen when a blood vessel in the brain bulges or balloons, resembling a berry hanging on a stem (via Mayo Clinic). If it leaks or ruptures, it causes bleeding between the brain and the thin tissues around it, causing a hemorrhagic stroke. Most aneurysms don't rupture, however, and are detected during tests for other things.

If an aneurysm ruptures, you might develop a severe headache — what will likely feel like the worst headache you've ever had. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, blurred vision, light sensitivity, seizure, drooping eyelids, confusion, and unconsciousness.

If you have an aneurysm but it doesn't rupture, you may still experience pain behind one eye, a dilated pupil, a change in vision, and numbness on one side of the face.

How your family history of aneurysm affects your risk

About one in 50 American adults have an unruptured brain aneurysm, and the annual rate of rupture is about 10 per 100,000 people (via The NeuroMedical Center). Approximately 30,000 people in the U.S. suffer from a ruptured brain aneurysm each year.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery found that one in five people with a brain aneurysm has a family history of them (via Healthline). Having a first-degree relative with an aneurysm can actually triple your risk of it, and scientists are still studying the genes that may affect this. Some genetic conditions can increase your risk for a brain aneurysm, like polycystic kidney disease, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and fibromuscular dysplasia.

If you have a family history of brain aneurysms, you may also be more likely to experience an aneurysm that ruptures at an earlier age. A 2019 review published in PLOS One found that while the average age at rupture is 50.8 for the general population, it drops to 46.5 for those with a family history.