Cerebrovascular Diseases

Common Types of Cerebrovascular Diseases

Cerebrovascular diseases are disorders that affect the blood vessels in or leading to the brain. These conditions can cause impairment of movement, sensation, and thinking. Common types of cerebrovascular diseases include stroke, mini-stroke, aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation (AVM), transient ischemic attack (TIA), and vascular dementia.


A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is stopped. This causes the affected cells to die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. Symptoms of stroke can vary depending on what part of the brain is affected, but may include weakness or paralysis of the face, arms or legs, confusion, difficulty speaking, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, and sudden severe headache. Treatment for a stroke can involve clot-busting drugs or surgery.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief episode of stroke-like symptoms resulting from a temporary lack of blood flow to part of the brain. Symptoms usually last less than five minutes and may include weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, dizziness, blurred or decreased vision, and confusion. A TIA is often a warning sign of a more serious stroke that can occur in the future. Treatment typically involves medications or lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of stroke.


An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery caused by a weakness in the artery wall. It is a large balloon-like swelling that can leak or rupture and cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue. Aneurysms can occur in any artery in the body and are particularly dangerous if they involve the larger blood vessels in the brain. Symptoms of an aneurysm may include severe headache, blurred vision, dilated pupils, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Treatment for an aneurysm typically involves surgical repair or a minimally invasive procedure.

Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain. AVMs can cause problems if they interrupt the normal flow of blood in the brain, leading to impaired movement, sensation, and thinking. Treatment for AVMs may include surgery, radiosurgery, embolization, or a combination of these therapies.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain, resulting in decreased oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells. Therefore, symptoms of vascular dementia can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with planning and organizing, slowed thinking, problems with language, difficulty with coordination and balance, and changes in personality or mood. Treatment typically involves medications, lifestyle changes, and rehab therapies such as speech, physical, and occupational therapies.

Risk Factors for Cerebrovascular Diseases

There are many risk factors and contributing conditions that can increase a person's risk for cerebrovascular diseases. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Age (risk increase over age 55)
  • Family history of stroke or other cerebrovascular diseases