While it may seem surprising that Clarke — who is young and seemingly healthy — suffered from this ailment, are most common in adults between the ages of 30 to 60 and are more prevalent in women than in men.
Researchers haven’t pinned down why aneurysms are more common in women. Some suspect that it may be related to a , according to , a neurosurgeon at DMC’s Detroit Receiving Hospital.
However, this is more so the case with postmenopausal women, suggests. Health experts suspect Clarke likely had a genetic predisposition.
“It is rather uncommon that a young healthy woman can have an aneurysm, but not unheard of. She may have a genetic familial component or an underlying vascular problem that was not a problem or previously undiagnosed,” Moisi told Healthline.
Still, brain aneurysms can occur in anyone at any age, the states.
In addition to heredity, other causes include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, head trauma, and atherosclerosis — a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries.
About of people who are diagnosed with an aneurysm will have multiple aneurysms — as was the case with Clarke.
Throughout our brain there’s a network of arteries that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
An occurs when an artery’s wall weakens and develops a bulge. This bulge can break open and cause dangerous internal bleeding.
“If any little spot of the arteries wall is thin, a bubble can form that is vulnerable to popping. Medically, we call these arterial bubbles aneurysms — and if they pop we call that a rupture,” explains , a dual-trained brain surgeon and neuroscientist at City of Hope in Los Angeles and author of .
Most of the time, people don’t know they have a brain aneurysm until it bursts.
A sudden, severe headache — known as a “thunderclap headache” — is the key symptom involved with a ruptured aneurysm. Similarly to Clarke, many will also experience nausea and vomiting. Confusion, sensitivity to light, and blurred or double vision are common symptoms as well.
A ruptured brain aneurysm can be deadly, Jandial told Healthline. Approximately .
Treatment varies and depends on the location, size, and shape of the ruptured aneurysm.
One option is through an endovascular approach, which was the first procedure Clarke went through. This involves going through an artery in either the groin or hand and sealing off the affected area with coils.
Some aneurysms require a more invasive open surgery, called a craniotomy or surgical clipping. During this procedure, a neurosurgeon removes a section of the skull and places a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm to stop blood flow to the area. This is the second type of surgery Clarke received.
These procedures can also be used to treat an unruptured aneurysm before a bleed ever occurs.
“Patients with aneurysms that are treated after they bleed have a longer recovery than those who are treated electively. Certain aneurysms may be treated electively to prevent them from bleeding in the future,” noted , a neurointerventional radiologist at Stanford Health Care in California.
It can take months or even years for aneurysm survivors to start feeling normal again, Heit told Healthline.
Approximately 66 percent of ruptured aneurysms can cause permanent neurological damage, according to the .
In fact, found that ruptured aneurysms can have a lasting impact on survivors’ quality of life — and impair their mobility, self-care, and normal activities as well as cause anxiety and depression.
“Many are devastated and some survive. Even fewer get back to their original selves. The Game of Thrones actress beat the odds,” says Jandial.
If aneurysms run in your family, it’s worth getting brain imaging to determine if you may have one. Additionally, if you ever experience a severe, sudden headache — often described as “the worst headache of your life” — it’s crucial to seek medical care immediately.
When it comes to brain aneurysms, diagnosing and treating it immediately maximizes your chances of making a full recovery.
Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has written an essay about how she’s suffered from two life threatening brain aneurysms.
Clarke hopes to help others recovering from traumatic brain injuries with the launch of her new charity — SameYou.
Aneurysms occur when an artery wall near the brain weakens and forms a bulge. This condition can become deadly if that artery ruptures.
The key symptom of an aneurysm is a sudden and painful, intense headache.
People who suffer an aneurysm need medical attention as soon as possible.