Types of Brain Aneurysm Headaches

by | Jun 28, 2023

A brain aneurysm headache is a severe and sudden headache caused by the rupture or leakage of a blood vessel in the brain. Find answers to common questions such as “How long does a brain aneurysm headache last?” and “What does it feel like?”

Happy man relaxing with arms on his head.

Brain Aneurysm Headaches

Generally, more people worldwide complain about headaches than any other medical ailment. Aneurysms and migraines are some of the more severe forms of headaches. Unfortunately, people can mistake an aneurysm for a migraine headache and vice versa, delaying care and possibly leading to significant complications.

This article discusses the types of brain aneurysm headaches, including their symptoms and severity. Our brain aneurysm specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja, looks into the difference between aneurysm headaches and migraines. The Ultimate Guide to Brain Aneurysm post can also help you learn about brain aneurysm causes, symptoms, and treatments for this potentially life-threatening condition.

Unruptured Brain Aneurysm Headache

A brain aneurysm is a weak, bulging area in the brain artery. Ideally, your brain has several small vessels that carry blood. If the walls of one of the vessels are weak, it can bulge out and form a small blood-filled bulging called a brain aneurysm. Unruptured brain aneurysms rarely cause symptoms, and many people can have gone for years without encountering health complications. However, an unruptured brain aneurysm may occasionally cause symptoms, especially when they are large or pressed against nerves or tissues in the brain. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm.

Most unruptured brain aneurysms are not as severe, especially small ones, however, they can be painful, chronic headaches. These headaches can happen anywhere in the brain, but most form in the major arteries along the base of the skull and typically affect one side of the head. They are moderately severe lasting from minutes to even days.

Associated symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbance, including loss of vision or double vision
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pain above or around the eye
  • Numbness on one side of the face

Unruptured and Ruptured Brain Aneurysm

Understand the differences between unruptured and ruptured brain aneurysms to determine potential risks and appropriate treatments. 

Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Headache

The walls of the brain aneurysm are typically thin and weak, meaning it can rupture with exerted pressure. A ruptured aneurysm is one of the most severe medical emergencies. The resultant bleeding causes significant damage to the brain and even fatalities. A ruptured brain aneurysm has been likened to being hit on the head with a blunt object, resulting in sudden agonizing pain.

A “sentinel headache” is a sudden and severe headache that happens and described as “warning leaks” by doctors because they can precede a full rupture. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if experiencing a sentinel headache to assess and manage the underlying aneurysm. It is when the brain aneurysm ruptures fully, people who have had “thunderclap headaches” describe it as the most painful headache of their lives. Large volumes of blood leak into the brain bringing on an extremely severe headache. A large ruptured brain aneurysm headache is extremely severe lasting for at least one minute until successful treatment.

A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency. Call 9-9-5 immediately and request an ambulance if a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a brain aneurysm. It occurs mainly in the spaces between your brain and the thin tissues covering the brain.

Associated Symptoms 

  • Blinding headache

  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Neck pain or stiff neck
  • Sudden confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Weakness in some limbs or one side of the body

Sentinel vs. Thunderclap Headaches

Sentinel headache (SH) is a warning sign of a preceding rupture of an aneurysm. Experts reveal 15 to 60% of patients with brain aneurysm experience symptoms of sentinel headaches just before the rupture. Sentinel headache symptoms are described as sudden intense, persistent headaches displaying features different from any usual previous headaches a person has experienced.

On the other hand, a thunderclap headache (TCH) is a severe headache that starts suddenly and peaks within one minute and can last for a minimum of five minutes. It is often likened to a “clap of thunder” owing to its explosive and unexpected onset. Thunderclap headache is not usually associated with the rupture of a brain aneurysm but could be related to other conditions that require emergency medical attention.

You may also be wondering, “What is the difference between a migraine and a brain aneurysm?”. Brain aneurysm specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja, sheds further light.

Migraine vs. Aneurysm 

As mentioned earlier, migraines and aneurysms are two distinct medical conditions that often share symptoms but have different underlying causes and characteristics. Let’s take a look at their key similarities and differences:


There is usually some crossover in symptoms between migraines and ruptured aneurysms. Both conditions share symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light 

Key differences

  • A ruptured brain aneurysm’s pain is more severe than a migraine’s. Aneurysm pain is often described as the worst headache of a person’s life.
  • A ruptured brain aneurysm headache typically occurs suddenly, while migraine headaches usually occur gradually.
  • Ruptured brain aneurysms always require emergency treatment, while migraines rarely require emergency medical attention.

Our other in-depth article, “Migraine vs. Brain Aneurysm” describes reasons this confusion can occur misleading patients, the common symptoms of both, and how to differentiate between these two conditions to help you make more informed health choices.

Associated Symptoms of Migraines

Migraine symptoms tend to vary from one person to another. However, the following are the most common symptoms:

  • Recurrent headaches that last for between four and 72 hours
  • One-sided pulsating pain
  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sweating or cold hands
  • Pain from a touch of pressure

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic offers headache assessment and management techniques. Read our “Headache, Types, Symptoms, Treatment” blog post to stay informed about the primary and secondary categories of headaches.

Did you know that there are over 150 types of headaches? The most common include tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Headaches can also sometimes result from underlying medical conditions like strokesbrain aneurysms, or infections. Learn when it is time to worry about a headache, the different certain types, and the warning signs of each in our article. 

Common Types of Headache

Headache is a very common condition that affects virtually everyone. Some individuals have more debilitating headaches than the others severely affecting their quality of life.

Two Common Types of Headaches

The two commonest type of headaches seen in clinical practice are migraine and tension headache. There are other causes of headache that may be caused by underlying structural issues in the brain or by other physiological issues affecting the structures of the brain.

Headache Assessment

Assessment of headache involves a detailed clinical assessment including history and physical examination. This is followed by imaging scan such as MRI/MRA which in most cases is done to exclude any structural cause of headache. MRI scan does not involve any radiation or contrast injection with no side effects and high degree of accuracy.

Most patients presenting with headache are managed medically with excellent response to treatment. There are various over the counter and prescription based medication available both for treating acute episodes of headache as well as to prevent episodes of severe headache. Newer injection based treatments given to prevent headache on a monthly or 3-4 monthly basis have added another dimension to treat patients effectively.

Seek Medical Assistance at the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic

Headaches are an unfortunate part of our lives that we can’t escape. While most pains are mild to moderate in severity and can be tackled with over-the-counter medications, others are life-threatening. Understanding how to differentiate between dangerous and common headaches is the first step to getting the ideal treatment you require. We provide care and treatments at our specialized brain aneurysm clinic at Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic in Singapore.

Consult a Seasoned Brain Aneurysm Specialist

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a brain aneurysm, seek immediate medical assistance from the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic. Our brain aneurysm clinic and specialist based in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja provides  comprehensive management of complex multisystem surgical and medical conditions. Contact us today to fill in and submit contact information and inquiry details.

Dr. Manish, a certified neurointervention specialist, has extensive experience treating headaches and brain aneurysms. He can provide expert guidance regarding treatment options considering your specific headache. Come in for a further evaluation.

Middle aged women giving a call on her phone.

Brain Aneurysm Resources

Discover brain aneurysm resources that go beyond the basics designed for patients. Understand the meaning of  a brain aneurysm condition, the causes, symptoms, signs, and more. Connect with your brain health.

Put Brain Aneurysm on Your Health Radar

Did you experience the worst headache of your life? Could it be a brain aneurysm that ruptures, which means bleeding in the brain? Thoughts could be racing through your mind. Then what is the difference between unruptured (a weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that balloons) or ruptured brain aneurysm? If you’re wondering, then the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is here to help. It’s important to look out for the tell-tale brain aneurysm symptoms, signs, causes, and risk factors.

Dr. Manish Taneja has been performing brain aneurysm treatments since 1995 from surgical clipping to latest minimally invasive procedures. Each patient is unique as is the size and location of the aneurysm. Your brain has different conditions to treat the aneurysm and artery vessel walls of a blood vessel in the brain. This calls for personalised brain aneurysm treatment depending on your symptoms, family, history, medication, and more. A simple CT scan could be just what the doctor ordered and the first step in early detection and prevention of a brain aneurysm. Come in for an easy consultation with our brain aneurysm specialist in Singapore to be on your health radar.

Other Health Conditions

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and treatments. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our neurointervention specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.