An AVM is characterised by an abnormal or unusual cluster of blood vessels in which capillaries are absent thereby giving arteries and veins a direct communication interface. This is considered a disorder in a human body because there are no capillaries to control blood flow and usually a lot of blood passes through such a malformation disturbing the overall circulation and affecting many systems. Most common AVMs occur in the brain, a few in the spine and yet another group of AVMs is formed in other organs of the body.
Arteriovenous malformations or AVMs are very rare yet they pose serious threat to a person’s health if present in the brain or spinal cord. If some signs and symptoms start to appear between the age of 10 and 40, it is strongly advised to see a doctor immediately and have proper scanning tests performed. Some other conditions tend to aggravate these symptoms; pregnancy and high blood pressure are examples.
How the Brain and Spinal Cord are affected?
A brain AVM, also known as cerebral arteriovenous malformation, sometimes does not cause any side effects at all. But in such a case the consequences are more dangerous because the AVM may rupture suddenly causing bleeding in the skull (also known as hemorrhage) and eventually causing death if not controlled immediately.
The signs and symptoms of a brain AVM are therefore very closely studied and if any one or more of these symptoms appear in a person, a scanning test is performed to confirm the presence of an AVM. Some of these symptoms include;
• Headaches and seizures
• Muscle weakness
• Numbness or paralysis
• Vision loss
• Unsteadiness and loss of control
• Inability to comprehend
• Memory loss
These signs are more related to a person’s psychological health and therefore it is easy to ignore or overlook them. Headaches and seizures do not occur in many patients and muscle weakness is usually very unnoticeable. However, some people do experience sudden loss of vision and inability to comprehend. They remain confused all the time without any other apparent reason and find it difficult to make a decision. Impaired reasoning and a sudden change in personality are also sometimes noticed in patients with a brain AVM.
Some complications that affect the brain due to the presence of an AVM include;
• Hemorrhage or bleeding especially in the case of small AVMs
• Less absorption of oxygen by the brain tissue
• Bulging blood vessels
• Brain damage
Spinal AVMs do not cause many apparent signs and symptoms. However, the patient may experience numbness and difficulty in walking, sudden pain in the legs, chronic lower back pain, headaches, and stiffness of the neck. As soon as any one of these signs appears, it is recommended to see a doctor.
Where do Neurological AVMs Tend to Form?
Neurological AVMs is a term used to describe the malformations that occur in the brain and the spinal cord. Location of the AVM has a great impact on the signs and symptoms that start appearing in the patient. For example, people who have an AVM on left or right parietal lobe of the brain tend to show more anger towards specific persons. This occurs because at this location the AVM causes the lobe to steal blood from other parts of the brain causing personality changes.This reduced oxygen absorption slowly and gradually starts damaging various parts of the brain causing more severe complications.
AVMs in the neck and shoulders tend to have an impact on hypoglossal nerves, which consequently causes numbness and paralysis of the facial area and ears. However, in case of spinal AVMs bleeding is not a complication but conditions like incontinence and weakness in the legs are common.