LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The brain is one of the most complex and important organs in the body with about 15-33 billion different neurons. But when something goes wrong -- like a brain aneurysm -- it can be devastating.
"Brain aneurysm is basically, there's a weakness in the wall of the vessel in specifically the artery that causes an out pouching and that weakness then has a perplexity to burst and bleed," explains Dr. Bruce Tharp.
This medical condition is something that Dr. Tharp sometimes encounters by accident when he's doing other procedures.
This medical condition is common. One in every fifty people have an unruptured brain aneurysm and every 18 minutes one ruptures around the country, according to BAF.
So, who's most at risk? Women over the age of 40.
Five years ago, a ruptured brain aneurysm affected my family.
On September 22, 2010 my mother, Gloria Estrada, died at the age of 47 in her sleep in Garland, Texas from a ruptured brain aneurysm. According to her doctors, it was something that she was born with and she didn't know anything about, until it was too late.
"It's a ticking time bomb -- it's something that is there that a majority of people don't know that they have. It's something that often times for a routine brain scan are the reasons we just happen to find," said Dr. Tharp.
While 6 million people have a brain aneurysm, many will go unruptured. But, there are risk factors that could increase your changes of rupturing a brain aneurysm like -- high blood pressure and drug use.
As for prevention, there's been research that suggests the family of anyone affected by a brain aneurysm get their heads scanned.
So I did.
My MRI brain scan didn't take long. In all -- it was about 5 minutes long.
Because of the new studies suggesting a hereditary link for this medical defect doctors will run the MRI exam if their patients exhibit symptoms -- like headaches or blurred vision. The MRI scan without health insurance runs the patients over $800.
Luckily for me, my scan was clear of any brain aneurysm with Dr. Tharp giving me the all clear.
Unfortunately, many people never get the 'all clear' or even know what an aneurysm is, but there's one group who's been around for over 20 years, that's helped educate and support those with this potentially fatal medical condition -- The Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
"We are hoping to achieve the fact that if you walk down the street and say 'brain aneurysm' you know what it is and they know the signs and symptoms are," said Christine J. Buckley Executive Director of The Brain Aneurysm via Skype.
In September, BAF gave over $250,000 worth of 'seed' money to help promote further research on brain aneurysms. The non-profit's record amount ever given for research.
"In 21 years, hopefully, we won't have to give out this much money for research because they will be able to identify a gene and be able to save lives," said Buckley.
But for now, early detection and even screening, like mine, can potentially prevent an aneurysm before it ruptures.
And as always remember that it's very important to listen to your body, and be aware of possible symptoms and warnings.