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NINDS Cerebral Arteriosclerosis Information Page

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What is Cerebral Arteriosclerosis?

Cerebral arteriosclerosis is the result of thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries in the brain. Symptoms of cerebral arteriosclerosis include headache, facial pain, and impaired vision.

Cerebral arteriosclerosis can cause serious health problems. If the walls of an artery are too thick, or a blood clot becomes caught in the narrow passage, blood flow to the brain can become blocked and cause an ischemic stroke. When the thickening and hardening is uneven, arterial walls can develop bulges (called aneurysms). If a bulge ruptures, bleeding in the brain can cause a hemorrhagic stroke. Both types of stroke can be fatal.

Cerebral arteriosclerosis is also related to a condition known as vascular dementia, in which small, symptom-free strokes cause cumulative damage and death to neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Personality changes in the elderly, such as apathy, weeping, transient befuddlement, or irritability, might indicate that cerebral arteriosclerosis is present in the brain. Computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain can help reveal the presence of cerebral arteriosclerosis before ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, or vascular dementia develop.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment for cerebral arteriosclerosis can include medications or surgery. Physicians also may recommend treatments to help people control high blood pressure, quit cigarette smoking, and reduce cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for cerebral arteriosclerosis.

What is the prognosis?

Cerebral arteriosclerosis can lead to life threatening health events such as ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes. People who survive stroke may have long-term neurological and motor impairments.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports an extensive research program on stroke and conditions that can lead to stroke. Much of this research is aimed at finding ways to prevent and treat conditions such as cerebral arteriosclerosis.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Cerebral Arteriosclerosis Clinical Trials


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National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Suite B
Centennial, CO 80112-3747
Tel: 303-649-9299 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Fax: 303-649-1328

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 4A21 MSC 2480
Bethesda, MD 20892-2480
Tel: 301-592-8573/240-629-3255 (TTY) Recorded Info: 800-575-WELL (-9355)

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified September 29, 2011