Cerebrovascular disease is a condition that affects the flow of blood to the brain. It is characterized by ischemia (lack of oxygen) or bleeding in an area of the brain and involves one or more cerebral (of the brain) blood vessels. Two major sets of blood vessels (arteries) regulate the blood flow to the brain. Any kind of damage to these arteries in the form of blockage or rupture affects this flow and can cause bleeding or deprive the brain cells of oxygen and important nutrients present in the blood. The nutrient-deprived brain cells either are damaged or die within a few minutes.
Cerebrovascular disease is a broad term and includes disorders such as stroke (blocked arteries), stenosis (narrowing of arteries), aneurysms (bulging out of the arteries), and vascular malformations (change in diameter of the arteries). The diagnosis of these disorders is done through imaging techniques. These may involve the use of contrast dye (cerebral angiography), ultrasound (carotid duplex), scans (CT or MRI), or metal discs (EEG).
Severe headache is a characteristic symptom of all cerebrovascular diseases. Some of the other symptoms include issues with vision, problems with co-ordination and balance as well as speech and comprehension difficulties.
Risk factors include both controllable and non-controllable risk factors. They include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, sedentary habits and obesity, age, gender, race and heredity factors.
Treatment to be adopted depends on the type of cerebrovascular disorder. If the disorder involves a blocked artery, tPA (“clot bursting” drug) is administered to the patient. Anti-platelet medications are provided when there is a risk of clot formation and stroke, and surgical interventions involving wire mesh stents are conducted in conditions such as carotid stenosis.