Joni Mitchell's Aneurysm, Explained

06/30/2015 06:53 am ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015
Larry Busacca via Getty Images

Musician Joni Mitchell is recovering from an aneurysm she suffered in March, according to a statement from her conservator, Leslie Morris. Contrary to rumors about her condition, Mitchell can speak, and is going through therapy to help regain the ability to walk again, Morris wrote.

Few details have been given about Mitchell’s aneurysm, except that she was found unconscious in her Bel Air home on March 31 and immediately transported to a Los Angeles-area hospital in an ambulance. She’s now resting at home, according to Morris’ latest statement, and a full recovery is expected.

Aneurysms are a condition in which the walls of an artery become weak and then swell with blood. No one knows for sure what causes aneurysms, according to the National Institutes of Health, but they can sometimes burst and cause dangerous hemorrhages in the brain or other parts of the body.

It hasn't been confirmed where Mitchell's aneurysm occurred. Aortic aneurysms, which take place in the artery that pumps blood to the heart, caused 10,597 deaths and contributed to more than 17,215 deaths in the United States in 2009. And according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, an estimated six million people (one in 50) have an unruptured brain aneurysm. Of these, an estimated 30,000 will experience a rupture in a given year.

Brain aneurysms can press on nerves and cause dizziness, headaches and double vision, according to the NIH. And when an aneurysm bursts, especially in or near the brain, blood can hemorrhage and cause a stroke.

Symptoms of a brain hemorrhage due to aneurysm are sudden and include nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, seizures, fainting and loss of consciousness. Catching an aneurysm before it bursts is crucial, as 40 percent of ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal. Of people who survive a ruptured brain aneurysm, about two-thirds will sustain permanent disability.

Factors like smoking, family history of aneurysm, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pregnancy increase the risk of aneurysms. If you suspect you may have an aneurysm -- either because you have brain aneurysm symptoms or you find a bulging, throbbing lump on your body -- talk to your doctor immediately.

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