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What is CNS Vasculitis?

Central Nervous System (CNS) vasculitis is an inflammatory brain disease targeting the blood vessels of the brain and/or spinal cord. In this disease, cells of the immune system attack the brain blood vessel walls, which leads to swelling and damage of the wall itself and the surrounding brain tissue. Patients may experience seizures, headaches or difficulties with memory, behaviour or cognition. In some patients, the vessel wall swelling is so severe that it causes critically low blood supply to the brain tissue fed by this vessel. Clinically the patients may be then experiencing stroke-like symptoms or suffer an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. In addition, the inflamed and swollen wall may become "sticky", which increases the risk of clotting and further reduced blood flow through the affected vessel. 

CNS inflammation
Cells of the immune system attack the brain blood vessel walls, which leads to swelling and irritation of the wall, restricting the space inside, and reducing blood flow.

Patients with CNS vasculitis can present with:

  • Seizures and intractable seizure status
  • Headaches
  • Stroke or other severe focal neurological deficits including impaired vision, speech deficits or movement abnormalities
  • Severe diffuse deficits such as memory difficulties, cognitive dysfunction or behaviour problems
  • Psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations
  • Fluctuating level of consciousness