Frequently Asked Questions

Could I have prevented it?
Those people with high blood pressure, and those who smoke have a greater risk of having a subarachnoid haemorrhage, however many people can have a subarachnoid haemorrhage with no known risk factors. It is unlikely that there is anything you could have done to prevent it, or predict it. There are no known links between stress and subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Why me, why now?
It is not known why some people have subarachnoid haemorrhage rather than others, and for the majority, it is difficult to predict who is at risk. It is also not known why the haemorrhage occurred at the time it did and not at any other. Whilst a subarachnoid haemorrhage can occur during periods of exertion, it can also happen at any time, during any normal daily activity such as work, rest, or sleep.

Could I have more than one aneurysm?
In about 20% of people more than one aneurysm is found at the time of the angiogram. However, the haemorrhage will have only come from one of the aneurysms. The chance of an aneurysm rupturing if it has never bled before, is very small. If you have more than one aneurysm, your neurosurgeon will discuss this with you, and whether further surgery or treatment would be needed for any other aneurysms.

I seem to be more sensitive to noise - is this normal?
Often people describe being more sensitive to noise, finding it more difficult to cope with. Everyday noise such as the television, or the rumble of conversations in a pub can be just as difficult to cope with as loud noises.

My vision does not appear to be as good - is this normal?
You may experience a slight change in your vision. You should discuss any visual difficulties with your Doctor or specialist nurse, however, for the majority, vision settles down and improves over the first few weeks. It is advisable to wait about 6-8 weeks after the bleed before having your eyes tested, as your vision may be changing during this period.

What effect can my illness have on my family?
Subarachnoid haemorrhage is a sudden, life threatening, and sometimes life changing event that mostly occurs without warning, and affects not just the individual who has had the bleed, but the whole family. It is a very worrying period for all involved and often more so for your family who are completely aware of all that is going on during the acute stage of the illness. During the recovery period, whilst you will need a lot of rest and care from your family, you will also need to slowly return to your normal activities and build up your strength. Family members need to take care of themselves as well, and although they may be very worried about you, they should avoid being over protective. Family members can often experience feelings of anxiety and go through low periods. Spouses or partners will need support themselves and may benefit from attending a support group and/or speaking to others who are experiencing or who have experienced a similar situation. The family as a whole needs to take time to relax.

Can I pass the risk of subarachnoid haemorrhage on to my children?
There are a very small number of families who appear to have a familial tendency to develop aneurysms in the brain; these families are identified by having 2 or more first degree relatives who have had a proven subarachnoid haemorrhage and/or cerebral aneurysm. A first-degree relative is a parent, a child, or a sibling. For the majority of people who have a subarachnoid haemorrhage an inherited risk is not of concern. If you are worried about this then you should discuss this with your specialist or specialist nurse. To date there is no evidence that aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage is genetically inherited.

When is it safe for me to have sex?
Many people are nervous about returning to a normal sex life, and for some, libido, or sex drive can be reduced. Anxieties may be increased if the bleed occurred whilst having sex. It is safe for you to have sexual intercourse as soon as you feel ready, however, this may not be for several weeks. Having sex in the future will not increase your risk of having a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Is it safe to get pregnant?
For the majority of young women who have had a subarachnoid haemorrhage, it is still safe to become pregnant and have a normal childbirth. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, then it is advisable to discuss this with your doctor or specialist nurse.

How long will I be off sick from work?
The amount of time you will need off work will vary, depending on your individual pace of recovery and the job that you do. However, on average, individuals will need to be off work for at least 3 months. When returning to work a phased return is advised if possible.

How long will I be suspended from driving?
It is a legal requirement to inform the DVLA of your subarachnoid haemorrhage, regardless of the cause. The DVLA will ultimately decide how long you cannot drive for, dependent on many factors. You will need to avoid driving until you have heard from the DVLA. Driving suspensions can vary from several weeks, up to a year or more. If you feel you are ready to resume driving and have not yet heard from the DVLA, you should discuss this with your GP. An example of a letter to the DVLA could read:

Dear Sir/Madam,

It is my duty to inform you that I have recently been an inpatient at ...................................................................after suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage. I was under the care of (Consultant Neuro-surgeon/Neuro- radiologist) who can provide you with further information.

Yours faithfully,

Alternatively you can download the appropriate form from the DVLA website. Contact details for the DVLA can be found in Useful Links.

Will I be entitled to any benefits?
When off sick from work for a period of time, you will either be entitled to sick pay from your employer, or you are likely to be able to claim benefits appropriate to your specific situation. You should contact an agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, or Welfare Rights to discuss you individual circumstances, and the benefits you may be entitled to. The telephone number for local offices will be in the telephone book. Your spouse, or partner may also need to take time off work while you are in hospital, and for a period of time when you come home. If you think that income might be a problem, you should speak to your bank or building society early on to explain the situation, particularly if you have loans and/or a mortgage.

Is it safe for me to have dental treatment?
Dental treatment is safe after a subarachnoid haemorrhage. If you have had surgery, you may find that you have pain in your jaw for several weeks, particularly when opening your mouth or chewing, and therefore you may find that it is more comfortable to postpone treatment, where possible, until your jaw is less painful.

What about hobbies and sports?
You should gradually build up to your previous level of activities as you feel able, and for most people there does not have to be any restriction on your future activities. Exercise is encouraged, but you should build up slowly as you feel able. Doing too much, too soon will result in severe tiredness and may make you feel very unwell. This is not dangerous, but may slow down your recovery.

Is it safe for me to fly?
Flying is perfectly safe after a subarachnoid haemorrhage; however, you are unlikely to feel physically well enough to fly within the first couple of months of recovery. You may find the journey more tiring than previously, and it may take you slightly longer to recover in the first year or so, but it will not cause you any problems specific to the subarachnoid haemorrhage. Pilot's licences will need to be reviewed.

Should I stop smoking?
Smoking is a known risk factor in many diseases, including the development of cerebral aneurysms, and therefore subarachnoid haemorrhage. If you smoke, you would be strongly advised to give up.

Can I drink alcohol?
You are likely to find that alcohol affects you more easily than prior to the bleed, and you may find that you feel drunk or very sleepy quite quickly. As long as you are not taking any medication, then there is no reason why you cannot drink alcohol in moderation. If you are taking any medication, particularly anticonvulsants, then drinking alcohol should be avoided.

When can I dye or perm my hair?
As soon as any wound has healed it is o.k. for you to wash you hair, it is also safe to dye or perm your hair if you wish. If you have had surgery, you may find that your scalp is more sensitive, particularly to temperature fluctuations of hot or cold, therefore you should be more aware of water temperature when washing you hair. For the same reason you may find it more comfortable to wear a hat and protect your head in hot and cold weather.

Where can I meet other people who are going through a similar experience?
There are details of a variety of support groups that may be relevant to you details of which can be found in Useful Links. Often individuals, and their families, find it very reassuring, and of benefit, to be able to share their experiences with others who have been, or who are in a similar situation.