What are the Symptoms of Small Vessel Disease of the Brain?


What are the Symptoms of Small Vessel Disease of the Brain?

Small blood vessels in the brain have a major role in supplying oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Any abnormality related to the working of the small blood vessels is referred to as small vessel disease brain. It is also termed cerebral small vessel disease or white matter changes because brain tissues are white in MRIs. Small vessel disease of the brain treatment is necessary to avoid complications and further degradation of the brain’s functioning. The condition is common in older adults and also contributes as a major reason behind strokes. 

In this article, we will discuss chronic small vessel ischemic disease in detail. So, continue reading to know more.

What is Chronic Small Vessel Ischemic Disease of the Brain?

As we age, chances of developing small vascular diseases of the brain are common. It is a common term used for any changes or abnormalities occurring in the small vessels of the brain that may lead to the blocking of oxygen and blood to various brain parts. It is important to understand the symptoms and signs to treat it as early as possible. If the condition is left untreated for a long time, it can affect health in many ways by developing the chances of dementia, balancing problems, strokes, etc. 

Males and females are at equal risk of developing small vessel disease brains. People above the age of 50 are at less risk compared to those above 90 years of age. Usually, 100% of the population above 90 years is affected by chronic small vessel ischemic disease.

Symptoms of Small Vessel Disease of the Brain

The severity of the small vessel disease brain can differ from person to person. In mild cases, the person may not experience noticeable symptoms even though the disease exists. However, in severe cases, it can be easy to spot the symptoms and understand the problem. Small vessel disease of the brain symptoms are:

  • Problem in thinking or loss of thinking capabilities. It may also be termed cognitive impairment
  • Balancing problems
  • Problem in walking
  • Depression

These are the symptoms of a severe case of small blood vessel disease. In some cases, the condition also causes stroke. In such a situation, the symptoms can be:

  • Weakness of one side of the body or a feeling of numbness
  • Trouble in speaking or understanding what others say
  • Loss of vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of balance.

These are the symptoms of a small vessel disease of the brain and headaches that may lead to stroke. In such a condition, you must not delay and rush for medical attention immediately.

What Causes Small Vessel Ischemic Disease

The exact cause of chronic small vessel ischemic disease is not known. The condition blocks the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the brain parts, causing disruption in various functions of the brain. It is somewhat the same condition that leads to heart attacks where the blood supply to the heart is blocked. So, you may also wonder, “Is small vessel disease of the brain serious?”!

Some of the probable reasons behind ischemic disease can be plaque build-up. When plaque builds in the blood vessels, it interrupts the flow of blood, thus depriving other parts of the brain of oxygen. Another reason could be a leakage of blood, which can impact the nearby neurons and the functions of the brain. So, various conditions can trigger small vein disease of the brain. 

Small Vessel Ischemic Disease: Who is at risk?

Some people with certain health conditions and diseases are at a higher risk of developing ischemic diseases like:

  • Age
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Arteries that have hardened
  • Smoking

If you have chronic health problems like diabetes or hypertension, you are at higher risk of small blood vessel disease and strokes. On the other hand, smokers create an environment for their health where getting ischemic disease becomes easier. So, putting an end to smoking habits is the only way to decrease the threat of chronic ischemic diseases.

Diagnosis of Cerebral Ischemic Disease

Anyone experiencing small vessel disease of the brain symptoms must seek medical attention at the earliest. It can be tough to diagnose the problem on your own with mere symptoms. So, getting a doctor's consultation is the best option.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is the method of diagnosing chronic small vessel ischemic disease. The MRI scan can show results depending on the situation. It can be:

  • Lacunar Infarcts: It refers to the small strokes
  • White Matter Hyperintensities: When scanned, white matter may show lesions that are bright enough to spot
  • Cerebral Microbleeds: In this situation, there is bleeding in the brain from small blood vessels.

MRI reports help diagnose the condition of the small blood vessels in the brain. Depending on the condition of the disease (if diagnosed), your doctor will advise on the treatment procedures.

How to Treat Chronic Small Vessel Ischemic Disease? 

The treatment of the small artery disease of the brain focuses on bringing down the factors contributing to the condition, like diabetes or hypertension. Once these conditions are brought under control, the effect of the ischemic disease also slows down. Your doctor may recommend:

Blood Pressure Management

High blood pressure is a risk in itself. Managing blood pressure is important not just for small blood vessel diseases brain but for the overall well-being of the person. With age, the risk of developing hypertension also increases. However, with basic lifestyle changes like healthy diets and regular exercise, one can control the situation.

Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Control

People with high cholesterol or diabetes are also at risk of ischemic disease. If these are the causes triggering the condition, your doctor may recommend you manage your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. For this, basic lifestyle changes can do wonders. A good diet, a smoke-free environment, regular physical exercise, and a positive mind are all they need.


If you have been prescribed medicines, say for diabetes or high blood pressure, make sure to take them as advised. Skipping doses is not a good idea, even if you feel all healthy. Apart from this, people are also prescribed blood-thinning medicines to avoid the risks of strokes.

Weight Management

Being overweight can be a risk factor for various health problems, including small blood vessel disease brains. If you are overweight, you must try to bring the weight down to lower the risk factors.

Quitting Smoking

Smoking is bad for health, and all smokers are aware of this fact. Not just small vascular diseases of the brain, smoking can also cause cancer, heart disease, and so on. Hence, it is best to quit smoking at the earliest. In the beginning, the journey may be more difficult than you think. However, it takes the first step to begin the process. You may get help from counselling or your friends and family to quit smoking.

Let’s Wrap it Up

Ageing can trigger a lot of health problems, with chronic small vessel ischemic disease being the one. It can be quite a serious health problem if left untreated. Older people with noticeable symptoms must not delay in getting medical attention. Various complications can be avoided if you take the right steps at the right time. In this journey, staying healthy and protected with Care Health Insurance is quite affordable. The various health insurance plans ensure you have a financial cushion to fall back on in time of medical needs.

>> Also Read: Does Health Insurance Cover Brain Surgery?


1. The above information is for reference purposes only: Policy Assurance and Claims at the underwriter's discretion.

2. All plan features, benefits, coverage, and claims underwriting are subject to policy terms and conditions. Kindly refer to the brochure, sales prospectus, and policy documents carefully.


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