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What is cerebral cavernous malformation?

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A cerebral cavernous malformation is a tangle of enlarged capillaries in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It has dangerously thin walls and no support from other structures that make normal blood vessels elastic. Because of this, it is at high risk of leaking.

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About 25 percent of individuals with cerebral cavernous malformations suffer no complications from them, claims the NIH. Other patients have headaches, cerebral hemorrhages, sensory disturbances, paralysis and seizures. Some patients die if their hemorrhages are massive enough. It is possible for a patient to have cerebral cavernous malformations in more than one area of the brain.

One type of cerebral cavernous malformation is inherited, while the other type is sporadic and has no family history. People who have no family history of the disorder usually only have one area of malformation. They are also more likely to be asymptomatic, according to WebMD.

Cerebral cavernous malformations usually occur in the brain's white matter. The malformations do not have brain material and are able to change in number and size over time. They are also likely to occur with other malformations, such as developmental venous anomalies, or DVAs. Though they are benign, DVAs complicate treating cerebral cavernous malformations. Cerebral cavernous malformation is rare and affects only about 0.5 percent of the population worldwide, according to the NIH.

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