A cavernous angioma is an abnormal collection of blood vessels in the brain, spinal cord, or other parts of the body. The abnormal vessels are usually clustered together and have bubble-like dilations filled with blood, called caverns. They can be present at birth (congenital) or can develop later. Individuals may have multiple cavernous angiomas of different sizes and at different locations.
Symptoms of cavernous angiomas vary depending on the location and size of the angioma. If the angioma is located away from vital organs and has strong vessel walls, the individual is not likely to show any symptoms. In other cases, such as for ones located in the brain, seizures may occur. Other potential symptoms include headaches, weakness in the arms or legs, memory or attention problems, balance problems, and vision problems. Bleeding is a possible complication that may occur when the angioma wall is ruptured. This is known as an overt hemorrhage, and can be life threatening.
Symptoms are usually first experienced between the ages of 20-30, although symptoms may start during childhood in more severe cases. Because cavernous angiomas can develop or grow as a person ages, adults are more likely to experience symptoms. The likelihood of developing cavernous angiomas is believed to be influenced by genetic factors. Hispanic Americans are at a higher risk of developing cavernous angiomas than other ethnic groups.
Cavernous angiomas are diagnosed by the symptoms and confirmed using imaging techniques. After detection, affected individuals have regular check-ups to look for changes in appearance or bleeding. Medication is often used to treat symptoms, such as headaches or seizures, or to help prevent complications, such as bleeding. When a cavernous angioma expands in size, bleeds, or causes seizures, surgery may be required. If you or your child has been diagnosed with a cavernous angioma, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.