What is the Difference Between an Aneurysm and Stroke?

M.R. Anglin

The main difference between an aneurysm and stroke has to do with how the two conditions affect blood vessels. An aneurysm is a bulging of a blood vessel that may rupture. Conversely, a stroke is caused when oxygen and nutrients cannot get to parts of the brain because a vessel breaks or because of a blockage in the vessel. Despite the differences, an aneurysm and stroke have several characteristics in common. Both an aneurysm and stroke have to do with blood vessels and blood flow, and both can be fatal.

A diagram of the aorta. Aortic aneurysms can be extremely dangerous.
A diagram of the aorta. Aortic aneurysms can be extremely dangerous.

Both aneurysms and strokes have to do with blood vessels and how they carry blood. An aneurysm can occur with many arteries but most commonly is associated with the aorta, the primary artery that transports blood from the heart into the rest of the body. An aneurysm occurs when a part of the artery becomes weak and bulges. Over time, blood pressure and other factors can cause the bulge to become bigger and weaker. Should it rupture, an aneurysm can cause internal bleeding and death.

The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.

A stroke, on the other hand, can occur when a blood vessel bursts or when a vessel becomes clogged. An aneurysm can lead to a stroke if the bulge is in one of the brain’s arteries and it ruptures. A blood vessel can also break and cause a stroke without an aneurysm present. In addition, a stroke can result if a blood clot forms in a brain vessel and obstructs blood flow. Another type of stroke can be caused if a piece of a blood clot forms in another location, breaks off, and travels to the brain where it gets stuck in one of the brain’s vessels.

A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.

The area in which the two conditions can cause damage is another difference between an aneurysm and stroke. An aneurysm can occur in any artery, but usually occurs in the aorta. Many times, the aorta can rupture in the chest or in the abdomen. A stroke, however, usually occurs in the brain. Both aneurysms and strokes can result in internal bleeding and death.

Symptoms of aneurysm and stroke also present another difference. A stroke usually occurs with symptoms such as numbness of the face, confusion, and trouble seeing. An aneurysm that hasn’t burst usually does not show any symptoms. If the bulge is big enough, however, it may press on a nerve and cause headache, swelling, pain, or difficulty seeing, depending on where the aneurysm is located. Symptoms of an aneurysm that has burst in the brain can include nausea, difficulty seeing, stiff neck, and numbness.

An aneurysm occurs when a part of the artery becomes weak and bulges.
An aneurysm occurs when a part of the artery becomes weak and bulges.

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