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A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain.
The arteries are responsible for taking oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain. Veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to the lungs and heart. A brain AVM disrupts this vital process.

An arteriovenous malformation can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. Even so, brain AVMs are rare and affect less than 1 percent of the population.

The cause of AVMs is not clear. Most people are born with them, but they can occasionally form later in life. They are rarely passed down among families genetically.

Some people with brain AVMs experience signs and symptoms, such as headache or seizures. AVMs are commonly found after a brain scan for another health issue or after the blood vessels rupture and cause bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).

Once diagnosed, a brain AVM can often be treated successfully to prevent complications, such as brain damage or stroke.

A brain arteriovenous malformation may not cause any signs or symptoms until the AVM ruptures, resulting in bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage). In about half of all brain AVMs, hemorrhage is the first sign.

But some people with brain AVM may experience signs and symptoms other than bleeding related to the AVM.

In people without hemorrhage, signs and symptoms of a brain AVM may include:

  • Seizures
  • Headache or pain in one area of the head
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in one part of the body

Some people may experience more-serious neurological signs and symptoms, depending on the location of the AVM, including:

  • Severe headache
  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis
  • Vision loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion or inability to understand others
  • Severe unsteadiness

Treatment Options

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