Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Subarachnoid hemorrhage

Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a medical condition characterized by bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it, known as the subarachnoid space. This condition can be quite serious and requires immediate medical attention. When an artery in the brain ruptures, it causes blood to leak into the subarachnoid space, leading to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The most common cause of SAH is a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, which is a weak spot in an artery wall that balloons out and eventually bursts. The symptoms of SAH can vary but often include a sudden and severe headache, neck stiffness, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), confusion or loss of consciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect that you or someone else may have suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing SAH effectively. Medical professionals may use imaging tests such as CT scans or lumbar punctures to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment options may include surgical intervention to repair aneurysms or other procedures aimed at reducing bleeding and preventing complications.

Symptoms of Subarachnoid hemorrhage

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Subarachnoid hemorrhage, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Neurologist.



There are several factors that can lead to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. One of the most common causes is the rupture of an aneurysm, which is a weak spot in the blood vessel wall that balloons and eventually bursts under pressure. This rupture can occur spontaneously or be triggered by various factors such as high blood pressure, trauma, or certain medical conditions. Another cause of subarachnoid hemorrhage is arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain. When these vessels become weak or rupture, it can result in bleeding into the subarachnoid space. In some cases, head trauma or injury can also lead to subarachnoid hemorrhage. The forceful impact on the head can damage blood vessels and cause bleeding within the brain. It's important to note that certain risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, and family history of aneurysms or AVMs increase the likelihood of experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Understanding these causes allows healthcare professionals to identify individuals at higher risk and implement preventive measures accordingly. By raising awareness about these causes and promoting healthy lifestyle choices, we can work towards reducing the incidence of subarachnoid hemorrhages in our society.

Risk Factors

One of the primary risk factors for subarachnoid hemorrhage is age. Studies have shown that the incidence of this condition increases with advancing age, particularly in individuals over 40 years old. Additionally, gender plays a role, as women tend to be at a slightly higher risk than men. Another significant risk factor is hypertension or high blood pressure. Individuals with uncontrolled hypertension are more susceptible to experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage as elevated blood pressure can weaken the walls of blood vessels in the brain. Certain lifestyle choices and habits also contribute to the risk of developing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Smoking, for example, significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing this condition due to its detrimental effects on blood vessel health. Heavy alcohol consumption has also been identified as a risk factor. In some cases, underlying medical conditions such as cerebral aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) can predispose individuals to subarachnoid hemorrhages. These structural abnormalities in blood vessels can rupture and lead to bleeding within the brain's surrounding membranes. It is important for individuals who possess these risk factors or have a family history of subarachnoid hemorrhages to be vigilant about their health and seek appropriate medical attention if necessary. By addressing these risks through lifestyle modifications and regular healthcare check-ups, it is possible to mitigate the chances of experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage and promote overall well-being.


Recognizing the symptoms of a subarachnoid hemorrhage is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. This condition occurs when there is bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it, known as the subarachnoid space. One of the most common symptoms of a subarachnoid hemorrhage is a sudden and severe headache, often described as "the worst headache of my life." This intense headache can come on suddenly without any warning signs. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), neck stiffness, and changes in consciousness or alertness. It is important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience only a few or none at all. However, if you or someone you know experiences any combination of these symptoms, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Early detection and treatment are crucial in improving outcomes for individuals with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Therefore, being aware of these symptoms and taking appropriate action can potentially save lives.

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Accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial when it comes to subarachnoid hemorrhage. This life-threatening condition requires swift medical intervention, and the diagnostic process plays a significant role in determining the appropriate treatment plan. To diagnose subarachnoid hemorrhage, healthcare professionals employ a variety of techniques and tests. One commonly used method is a thorough physical examination, where doctors assess the patient's symptoms, medical history, and perform neurological evaluations. This initial assessment helps identify potential risk factors or underlying conditions that may contribute to the hemorrhage. In addition to the physical examination, imaging tests are essential for diagnosing subarachnoid hemorrhage. Computed tomography (CT) scans are often the first-line imaging tool used in emergency settings due to their speed and accuracy in detecting bleeding within the brain. A CT scan can provide valuable information about the location, size, and severity of the hemorrhage. If a CT scan does not reveal any conclusive results or if there is a high suspicion of subarachnoid hemorrhage despite negative findings on CT scan, further testing may be necessary. In such cases, a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) can be performed to analyze cerebrospinal fluid for evidence of bleeding or other abnormalities. Prompt diagnosis of subarachnoid hemorrhage allows healthcare professionals to initiate appropriate treatment measures promptly. Early intervention can help minimize complications and improve patient outcomes. It is important to note that only qualified medical professionals should perform diagnostic procedures related to subarachnoid hemorrhages. If you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing this condition, seek immediate medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.


The treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage is a critical aspect of patient care, as it can significantly impact the outcome and prognosis. Prompt and appropriate treatment is essential to minimize complications and improve patient outcomes. One of the primary goals in treating subarachnoid hemorrhage is to prevent rebleeding, which can lead to further damage and potentially life-threatening consequences. This often involves surgical intervention, such as aneurysm clipping or coiling, to secure the source of bleeding and prevent future episodes. In addition to surgical procedures, other treatments may be employed to manage the symptoms and complications associated with subarachnoid hemorrhage. These may include medications for pain management, blood pressure control, prevention of vasospasm (a condition where blood vessels narrow), and prevention of seizures. Furthermore, close monitoring in an intensive care unit setting is crucial for patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage. This allows healthcare professionals to closely observe any changes in neurological status or signs of complications that may require immediate intervention. It's important to note that treatment plans for subarachnoid hemorrhage should be tailored to each individual patient's specific needs and circumstances. A multidisciplinary approach involving neurosurgeons, neurologists, critical care specialists, and other healthcare professionals is often necessary to ensure comprehensive and optimal care. By providing timely treatment interventions that address both the underlying cause of the subarachnoid hemorrhage as well as its associated symptoms and complications, healthcare providers can help improve outcomes for patients with this serious medical condition.

Preventive Measures

Prevention is key when it comes to subarachnoid hemorrhage, a potentially life-threatening condition. By taking proactive measures, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of experiencing this medical emergency. One of the most important steps in prevention is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoiding habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Engaging in physical activity not only helps to keep the cardiovascular system strong but also promotes overall health and wellbeing. Another crucial aspect of prevention is managing underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage. Conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cerebral aneurysms should be closely monitored and treated by healthcare professionals. Furthermore, being aware of family history can provide valuable insights into one's predisposition to certain medical conditions, including subarachnoid hemorrhage. If there is a history of aneurysms or other related disorders in the family, it is important to discuss this with a healthcare provider who can recommend appropriate screening or preventive measures. In certain cases, preventive interventions may be recommended for individuals at high risk for subarachnoid hemorrhage. These interventions may include surgical procedures or endovascular treatments aimed at addressing aneurysms or other vascular abnormalities that could potentially lead to bleeding in the brain.

Do's & Don’t's

When it comes to managing a subarachnoid hemorrhage, there are certain do's and don'ts that should be followed to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. These guidelines can help healthcare professionals provide effective care and support during this critical condition. 

Do's Don't
Seek immediate medical attention Avoid strenuous physical activity
Follow the treatment plan prescribed by medical professionals Do not ignore sudden severe headaches
Rest and avoid excessive exertion Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
Take prescribed medications regularly Do not skip follow-up appointments
Monitor for any new or worsening symptoms Avoid abrupt changes in blood pressure
Maintain a healthy lifestyle (balanced diet, regular exercise) Do not ignore warning signs (vision changes, confusion)
Practice stress management techniques Avoid heavy lifting or straining
Stay hydrated and maintain adequate fluid intake Do not engage in activities that could risk head injury
Communicate any concerns to healthcare providers Avoid self-medicating without medical advice

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Subarachnoid hemorrhage, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Neurologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when there is bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it, known as the arachnoid membrane.
The most common cause of SAH is a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, which is a weakened area in the wall of an artery in the brain. Other potential causes include head trauma, blood clotting disorders, and certain medical conditions.
Symptoms can vary but often include sudden and severe headache (often described as ""the worst headache of my life""), neck stiffness, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Diagnosis typically involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, imaging tests such as CT scan or MRI scan, and sometimes lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to analyze cerebrospinal fluid.
Treatment depends on factors such as the cause and severity of bleeding. It may involve surgical interventions like clipping or coiling aneurysms to prevent re-bleeding or medication management for associated complications such as vasospasm or increased intracranial pressure.
Prognosis varies depending on several factors including age, overall health status at presentation, location and size of the aneurysm, and promptness of medical intervention. Early diagnosis and treatment greatly improve the chances of a favorable outcome.
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