An often-deadly type of stroke — subarachnoid hemorrhage — is on the upswing in the United States, particularly among Black people, new research shows.
What is a subarachnoid hemorrhage?
Unlike the more common ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage happens when there is bleeding in the space between the brain and the membrane that covers it. It is often caused by an aneurysm, a bulge in a blood vessel, that bursts or leaks.
This type of stroke, which comprises about 5% to 10% of strokes, is rising in certain groups, especially older men and women, middle-aged men and disproportionately in Black people, researchers say.
- Loss of consciousness
- Double vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe headache — the worst headache pain you’ve ever had that feels different from other headaches
- Trouble speaking
- Drooping eyelid
- Confusion and trouble concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
- Neck stiffness
A characteristic of subarachnoid hemorrhage is having the worst headache of your life, Otite says. “A particularly severe headache that just comes out of the blue and gets to maximum severity within a very short term,” he notes.
This would be less likely to occur with other forms of stroke, such as ischemic stroke, which is due to a blood clot rather than a bleed.
“Although other signs of strokes, such as weakness and facial droop and speech disturbances, can also occur in subarachnoid hemorrhage, headache would be much more consistent with subarachnoid hemorrhage compared to the others,” Otite says.
Additional signs could be severe vomiting, confusion, sleepiness or even becoming comatose within a short period of time.
Why the rise?
“It’s on the rise, but the rise is not universal,” says study co-author Dr. Fadar Otite, assistant professor of neurology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y.
Some of this can be explained by risk factors like high blood pressure. Black people have been more likely to