Small vessel ischemic disease is also referred to as lacunar infarction; it is diagnosed when there is a blood flow blockage in smaller arterial blood vessels. It is linked to hypertension and stroke. Studies have also shown a significant link between small vessel ischemic disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Small vessel ischemic disease is caused by a variety of factors. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The exact mechanism by which small vessel ischemic disease occurs is currently not known, but one of the most common markers of the disease is white matter lesions of the subcortical area of the brain.
As small vessel ischemic disease progresses, the blood vessel walls become thickened. Thickening of the vessel walls is referred to as atherosclerosis; over time the thickened walls also become hardened. As the vessels thicken and harden, it becomes more difficult for oxygen and important nutrients to reach the brain. The blood supply to specific areas of the brain is also hindered, leading to ischemic brain tissue. Damaged brain tissue and lack of oxygen to certain areas of the brain put the individual at a high risk for stroke and dementia. Physical symptoms of the disease's progression include slow and slurred speech, an inability to solve rational problems, poor judgment and a lack of emotion.