Cerebrovascular disease is a term for conditions that affect blood flow to your brain. Conditions include stroke, brain aneurysm, brain bleed and carotid artery disease. These conditions are medical emergencies and need prompt treatment, such as medications and surgery. Though disability or death may occur, some people make a full recovery.
Cerebrovascular disease is an umbrella term for conditions that impact the blood vessels in your brain. “Cerebro” refers to your brain and “vascular” refers to your blood vessels (arteries and veins).
Cerebrovascular diseases may cause a reduction of blood flow to your brain (ischemia) or bleeding (hemorrhage) in a part of your brain. Both conditions are generally referred to as “stroke.” Blood vessel diseases in the brain can lead to strokes, as well as many other vascular conditions.
If you or your loved one have a cerebrovascular disease, it’s important to restore blood flow to the brain as soon as possible. Otherwise, brain cells can quickly die and cause permanent disability or death.
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Cerebrovascular diseases can affect both arteries and veins. The most commonly affected cerebral blood vessels that supply blood to your brain include:
Stroke is the most common type of cerebrovascular disease. Other types of cerebrovascular disease include, but aren’t limited to:
People of every sex, age and race can have cerebrovascular disease. There are certain uncontrollable factors that put some people at higher risk for cerebrovascular disease, such as age or biological sex.
Cerebrovascular disease is the most common type of life-threatening injury to the brain in the U.S. and the fifth most common cause of death. In 2020, cerebrovascular disease led to more than 160,000 deaths in the U.S.
Causes of cerebrovascular disease may include:
Symptoms of cerebrovascular disease vary depending on what area of your brain is affected. Common symptoms include:
Cerebrovascular disease is a medical emergency that needs a quick diagnosis. A healthcare provider will first ask about your medical history. They’ll do a physical exam to look for:
If your provider suspects cerebrovascular disease, they’ll sometimes use tests such as:
These tests help your provider figure out the cause of the cerebrovascular disease. You might need other tests, too, depending on your situation.
Treatment for cerebrovascular disease depends on your specific condition. To limit damage to your brain, you’ll need to begin treatment as soon as possible after symptoms start.
Your provider will usually treat you with medications to improve blood flow to your brain. These medications may include:
If you have severe blockage in your blood vessels, you may need surgery. Types of surgery may include:
You can lower your risk of cerebrovascular disease by following a healthy lifestyle. It’s smart to:
Overall, you’re at higher risk of cerebrovascular disease if you have:
You may be at higher risk of certain types of cerebrovascular disease if you:
People with controlled cerebrovascular disease can often lead normal lives with complete recovery. In some cases, cerebrovascular disease may lead to death or disability. Complications may include:
As stated above, some people go on to achieve full recovery while others have persistent deficits. If you have cerebrovascular disease, the outlook depends on:
You can continue to take care of yourself with cerebrovascular disease by:
If cerebrovascular disease has affected your brain function, you may need rehabilitative therapies to help you, such as:
Call 911 immediately if you notice any symptoms of cerebrovascular disease. The American Stroke Association suggests using the acronym F.A.S.T. to identify symptoms:
Also, see your provider with any concerns about side effects from your treatments or if you don’t notice results after some time. They’ll be able to suggest other treatments that may help.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cerebrovascular disease is a term for conditions that affect the blood vessels that supply blood to your brain. This decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain causing damage. The most common one is stroke. Other conditions include brain aneurysms, brain bleeds, carotid artery disease and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini strokes, among others. Possible symptoms include balance issues, vision loss, headaches and difficulty speaking. Your provider can treat cerebrovascular disease with medications and surgery. You can also lower your risk by making lifestyle changes, such as doing more exercise and reducing stress. Although cerebrovascular disease can cause disability and death, many people do continue to lead full lives. Your chances are better if you receive prompt treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/27/2022.
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