(WGGB) — They’re in the heads of millions of Americans. They sit silently and can burst without warning.
Brain aneurysms rupture in about 30,000 people every year, killing or disabling many, and women are at a higher risk than men.
But now, rearchers are taking a closer look at how a major change in a woman’s life could be to blame.
“The left side of my body got numb.”
Sande Skinner thought she was having a stroke.
“It didn’t feel right,” Skinner adds.
This was the problem.
“It’s a giant aneurysm.”
You can see right here how big the bulging artery in her brain really was. “The little sucker is right behind my right optic nerve,” Skinner says.
If ruptured, brain aneurysms can lead to stroke or death.
Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure and possibly lower estrogen levels caused by menopause.
Two of the largest brain aneurysm trials in the world found most happen in menopausal women.
“Average age of rupture of all patients with aneurysms is age 52, which just so happens to be the average age of menopause,” says Dr. Michael Chen at Rush University.
Doctor Chen says severe drops in estrogen may contribute to the weakening of artery walls. He conducted a study of 60 women with aneurysms and found, compared to the general population, they were less likely to have taken birth control or to be on hormone replacement therapy.
Chen believes estrogen treatments could help prevent women from developing aneurysms.
“Protect them from the effects of these severe changes and hormones on their blood vessels,” Chen adds.
Now, the doctor is enrolling a new trial to put his theory to the test. He’ll use low-dose hormone replacement therapy in pre-menopausal women in hopes of stopping aneurysms from forming.
After three surgeries and several stents, “this is after the aneurysm has been sealed off.”
Sande’s aneurysm is no longer a threat.
“I’m still walking and talking.”
Doctor Chen hopes his research will help wipe out the threat for every woman.
The study will start off with about 40 to 50 women with treated and untreated aneurysms. He hopes it will eventually expand into a multi-center trial around the country.