Cerebrovascular Disease

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Cerebrovascular diseases are conditions caused by problems with brain vasculature.

The four main types of cerebrovascular disease include:

Transient ischemic attack (TIA) 

This is a short-term decrease in the amount of blood supplied to part of the brain, which restricts the brain’s oxygen supply. This causes symptoms that are similar to those seen in stroke but they are not as long lasting. The person may slur their speech, have a temporary lapse of movement in the face, their arms may be weak or numb and their vision blurred.

These symptoms usually only last for a matter of minutes and TIA is also referred to as a “mini stroke.” Symptoms that do not resolve after 24 hours, however, indicate a full stroke. A person who has experienced a TIA needs to be evaluated and treated as soon as possible to minimize the chance of a further TIA or full stroke occurring.

Stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA)

This is an event that occurs as a result of restricted or blocked supply of blood to the brain. Most commonly, the blockage is caused by a blood clot. Starved of oxygen and nutrients, parts of the brain cells start to die which can cause brain damage or even death.

The main points to be aware of in stroke are represented by the acronym FAST where the letters stand for the following:

  • Face - An eye or corner of the mouth may be drooped on one side of the face. A person may drool and have a lack of expression due to paralysis of the facial muscles on one side of the face.
  • Arms - The person may be unable to raise their arms due to paralysis and weakness of the muscles.
  • Speech - Speech may be indistinct, slurred or completely absent.
  • Time - Medical attention must be sought as soon as possible after symptom onset, as the sooner the patient is treated, the more likely they are to recover and not suffer from brain damage.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage

This is a form of stroke that occurs when leaking blood accumulates on the surface of the brain. The leak is usually caused by an aneurysm rupturing beneath a membrane called the arachnoid, which leads to the accumulation of blood in the subarchnoid space. A subarachnoid hemorrhage can also be caused by a severe head injury or a birth defect that causes arteriovenous malformations.

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia refers to a decline in mental aptitude linked to slowly dying brain cells. Problems with the blood vessels cause a reduced supply of blood to parts of the brain, which become damaged and may eventually die off.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2014

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