Cerebrovascular disease (CVD) is a family of medical conditions which concern the supply of blood to the brain. The presence of an uninterrupted blood supply is critical for brain function, so cerebrovascular disease is a cause for major concern when it manifests. Conditions which interfere with blood supply to the brain can be identified and addressed in a number of ways. Elderly people, smokers, diabetics, and people with high blood pressure are all at increased risk of developing cerebrovascular disease.
For people who know their Latin roots, this medical term can be recognized by its parts: “cerebro” refers to the brain, while “vascular” refers to veins and blood vessels. CVD includes conditions which effect the supply of blood to the brain, and the blood supply within the brain. Left untreated, a cerebrovascular condition can lead to a stroke or aneurysm, which could cause brain damage or even death, depending on the location and the severity of the event.
A wide array of things can interfere with the brain's blood supply, including venous malformations, hardening or narrowing of the veins and arteries which supply blood to the brain, blood clots, and obstruction of the veins. Medical imaging studies can be used to look at the blood supply in the brain, often with the use of tracers which illuminate the veins and arteries to make them easier to see. In people who are more at risk for cerebrovascular disease, a doctor may recommend a periodic screening, especially if neurological symptoms arise.
In addition to being linked with conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, cerebrovascular disease can also be caused by certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, the development of tumors, or trauma to the brain. Doctors who work with patients who are predisposed to developing cerebrovascular problems may suggest a number of techniques to reduce the risk. Managing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes is important, as is being aware of the risks involved in taking certain medications.
It is also important to be alert to the early signs of a neurological problem. Slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, difficulty walking, vertigo, vision problems, and memory loss are all signs that there is something wrong with the brain, and they are grounds for an immediate visit to the doctor. Cerebrovascular disease can emerge in people who are perfectly healthy, so a history of generally good health and no known illnesses is not an excuse for delaying medical evaluation of neurological symptoms.