Warning Signs for a Brain AVM Rupture or Stroke

For those of us living with a brain AVM or who have a loved one living with a brain AVM, it is important from time to time to review the signs and symptoms of a possible AVM rupture (brain hemorrhage/hemorrhagic stroke). This information is presented not to frighten you, but to help you to be prepared.

The symptoms of a brain hemorrhage can vary. Symptoms may develop suddenly or over time. They may progressively worsen or suddenly appear.

If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing a rupture. Because ruptures may be serious or even life-threatening, you should call 911 in the United States, 101 in the UK, or the number to dial for emergency help where you live.

Symptoms of a rupture may include:

• A sudden severe headache (“worst headache of your life”)
• A first-ever or unusual seizure
• Weakness in an arm or leg
• Nausea or vomiting
• Decreased alertness or lethargy
• Vision changes
• Tingling or numbness
• Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
• Difficulty swallowing
• Difficulty reading or writing
• Loss of fine motor skills, coordination, or balance
• An abnormal sense of taste
• Loss of consciousness

Many of these symptoms may also be caused by conditions other than a rupture, but let emergency care sort out the whys and the wherefores. Don’t waste time trying to sort out for yourself what is happening.

After you have phoned for emergency care, you can also try these simple tests to look for signs of stroke:

1. “Smile and show me your teeth.” The "smile test" is used to check for one-sided facial weakness, a classic sign of stroke. If the smile is lopsided, it could be a sign of rupture.

2. “Close your eyes and raise your arms.” If both arms are not raised to the same height, it may be a sign of arm weakness.

3. “Repeat after me: ‘Don't cry over spilled milk.’ ” Ask the patient to repeat a simple sentence to check for slurring of speech, another classic sign of a stroke.

Ruptures are serious and should be attended to right away. But, please know that many of our members who have experienced ruptures are alive and well and contributing to our community today.

(adapted from WebMD http://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-hemorrhage-bleeding-causes-symptoms-treatments and http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20030213/got-minute-you-could-diagnose-stroke)

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Without apology, I really don’t agree with posting “warning signs”. I didn’t have “the worst headache of my life”, just a dull throb, with neck pain and total lethargy. I didn’t wake up for days.
I thought I had Lyme Disease because I’d found a tick a few weeks before. Perhaps a “but not limited to” disclaimer?

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Sorry to hear of your brain vascular event. Hope you have recuperated well.

Sounds like you did not have any “warning signs.” I don’t find these medical lists to be exhaustive nor exclusive. It’s used as a guide. But my thoughts are the thoughts of a non-MD.

Just 2 examples of the issue of “Warning signs”. tdz, I apologize for derailing your comment.

#1 My Mother-in-law had jaw pain for 3 hrs. She was having a severe heart attack (MI). It would have been wonderful if someone knew jaw pain could be a warning sign; she would not have been left with 30% heart function. They all believed it was a toothache. #2 A boy in school had an AVM burst 6 weeks ago. The school nurse (and her employer, the Board of Ed) is being sued because she was negligent during a very critical time period. The boy mysteriously “fell” on jungle gym. The videotape clearly shows students reporting that Joey just fell, with no reason. Major red flag, undetected.Yet she wrote “hit head on playground equipment.” She did not turn and assess his gait when he exited her office.His gait was to one side. She missed a second opportunity to realize the neuro damage. While the child was in her office, he complained twice of tingling in feet and fingers. Another critical red flag. His AVM burst and he has been in a coma. The nurse’s ignorance of neuro symptoms is not an excuse.

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Unapologetic? Yes. Cranky, old guy? Not my intention. Sorry if I came across as snotty.

I have had this discussion a number of times with a number of doctors and organisations. The headache…is NOT always sudden, severe or the worst you have ever had! Both of my son’s ruptures started with a normal headache. The first one developed onto other Neurological symptoms which a doctor chose to ignore and told me to take him home and put him to bed because he did NOT have this sudden, severe headache. If I had listened and not followed my gut and taken him to hospital he would have died at the age of 9. The second, again, started with a normal headache which did worsen after an hour and then vomiting started. Neither of these ruptures presented with the specific symptoms for his specific AVM that we were told to expect by his medical team. My advice to EVERYONE with an AVM is to follow your gut. No matter how many or how few symptoms you have and no matter to what degree, if you feel something is not right then get checked out. You are not wasting anyone’s time and you may just save your life.


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