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Cerebrovascular Disease

Cerebrovascular Disease

The term 'Cerebrovascular Disease' is used to describe a condition that is associated with impaired circulation of blood to the brain.


What is the cause?

The brain is irrigated by a complex structure of blood vessels, which supply different areas of the brain with the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly. When a blood vessel in the brain bursts or becomes obstructed by a clot, the brain tissue normally supplied with oxygen by this blood vessel deteriorates. This is often called a stroke. Please see alternative patient information document on Stroke.

In Cerebrovascular Disease, these strokes may be so small that no one may have noticed their occurrence. However, they can be detected on brain scans.


What are the symptoms of Cerebrovascular Disease?

Sufferers may feel physically weakened and become unsteady on their feet. The mental changes can include forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty carrying out activities that require planning and organisation. Individuals with Cerebrovascular Disease may also find it difficult to follow conversations and may have some difficulty expressing themselves.


Some individuals with Cerebrovascular Disease become depressed. Sufferers can also experience mood swings, with laughter and tears occurring for no apparent reason. Sometimes, strokes may cause damage to parts of the cortex as well as to the white matter. This type of vascular insult may result in more specific difficulties in reading, writing, or speaking. Symptoms tend to develop over time.


Who is at risk?

Cerebrovascular disease becomes more common as people get older, and is a common disorder of the elderly. However, it can occur in younger people, affecting some people in middle age. It is slightly more prevalent in men than in women. The most common risk factor is high blood pressure. Other risk factors include diabetes, a high cholesterol level, heart disease, smoking and a high level of alcohol consumption.


Is there any treatment?

Although there is currently no treatment to reverse the damage that has already occurred, treatment to prevent additional strokes is very important. Medicines can be prescribed to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes. A healthy diet, exercise and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol intake can also help to lessen the risk of further strokes. Your doctor may recommend aspirin, as this can help thin the blood and prevent further damage.


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Brain and neurology guide: conditions and treatments