Cranial Bleeding: Symptoms and Causes | Tampa General Hospital

Cranial Bleeding

Cranial bleeding occurs within the skull but outside the brain tissue or within the brain tissue itself. 

The brain cannot store oxygen, so it relies upon a series of blood vessels to supply it with the necessary oxygen and nutrients. When cranial bleeding occurs, oxygen may no longer be able to reach the brain tissue supplied by the leaking or burst vessels. The resulting pooling of blood also puts pressure on the brain and further deprives it of oxygen. The seriousness and outcome of a brain bleed depend on its cause, its location inside the skull, the size of the bleed and the amount of time that passes between the bleed and treatment, as well as the patient’s age and overall health.

Cranial Bleeding Causes

There are several different causes of brain hemorrhages and various risk factors. The most common include:

  • Head trauma
  • High blood pressure 
  • Aneurysm
  • Blood vessel abnormalities
  • Amyloid angiopathy
  • Blood or bleeding disorders
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Liver disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Smoking, heavy alcohol use or illegal drug use

Cranial Bleeding Symptoms

The symptoms of a brain hemorrhage can vary depending on factors like the location of the bleeding, the severity of the bleeding and the amount of tissue affected.

Symptoms include:

  • A sudden, severe headache
  • Seizures with no previous history of seizures
  • Weakness, tingling or numbness in the face, an arm or a leg
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased alertness and lethargy
  • Changes in vision
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty writing or reading
  • Loss of fine motor skills caused by hand tremors
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • An abnormal sense of taste
  • Loss of consciousness

Cranial Bleeding Diagnosis

Cranial bleeding is a life-threatening condition and should be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. You should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room so that you can be examined immediately.

A cranial bleeding diagnosis can be made using:

  • An evaluation of your physical symptoms
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA)
  • An electroencephalogram
  • Chest X-rays
  • A urinalysis
  • A complete vascular study, complete blood count (CBC) and/or blood studies
  • A spinal tap
  • A conventional angiography

Cranial Bleeding Treatment

Treatment for bleeding in the brain depends on the location, cause and extent of the hemorrhage. Surgery is often needed to alleviate swelling and prevent further bleeding. Certain medications may also be prescribed, such as painkillers, corticosteroids or osmotics to reduce swelling and anticonvulsants to control seizures.