What should I know about subarachnoid hemorrhage?

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is an infrequent form of stroke brought about by bleeding on the brain surface. Remember that it is a critical condition and can be deadly.

In most cases of subarachnoid hemorrhage, it is caused by a ruptured brain aneurysm. A brain aneurysm is a protrusion in a blood vessel due to weakening in the blood vessel wall. It is still not precisely known why brain aneurysms arise in some individuals but the risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.


Abrupt intense headache that is often described as being struck to the head which results to blinding pain.


Generally, there are no warning indications but a subarachnoid hemorrhage typically arises during physical exertion or straining such as a bowel movement, coughing, sexual activity or lifting heavy objects.

The characteristic indications include:

  • Abrupt intense headache – this is often described as being struck to the head which results to blinding pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Feeling sick
  • Light sensitivity
  • Stroke-like symptoms – this includes weakness on one side of the body and slurred speech
  • Convulsions or loss of consciousness

Take note that a subarachnoid hemorrhage is considered as a medical emergency. Call for emergency assistance if any of these symptoms are present.

Management of a subarachnoid hemorrhage

An individual who is suspected with subarachnoid hemorrhage requires a CT scan in a healthcare facility to assess for any indications of bleeding around the brain.

If subarachnoid hemorrhage is confirmed or likely suspected, the individual is transferred to a specialist unit. Medications are given to prevent any brief complications and a procedure to fix the source of the bleeding might be performed.

How to lower the risk

It is not always possible to prevent a hemorrhage, but there are measures that can lessen the risk.

The effective measures to lessen the risk for having a subarachnoid hemorrhage include:

  • Cessation of smoking
  • Limit or lessen the intake of alcohol
  • Take the necessary steps to prevent high blood pressure such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and cutting down weight if overweight

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on subarachnoid hemorrhage is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this sudden medical emergency, register for a first aid and CPR course with Saskatoon First Aid.


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