Most brain malformations begin long before a baby is born. Something damages the developing nervous system or causes it to develop abnormally. Sometimes it is a genetic problem. In other cases, exposure to certain medicines, infections or radiation during pregnancy interferes with brain development. Types of brain malformations include missing parts of the brain, abnormal growth of certain parts of the brain, and incomplete division of the brain. There are head malformations that do not involve the brain. It is common for new babies to have slightly lopsided heads, but parents should watch the shape of their baby’s head for possible problems.
Brain malformation may not cause any symptoms until the AVM (arteriovenous malformation) ruptures, resulting in bleeding in the brain. Symptoms of a brain malformation include seizures, headache and progressive weakness or numbness. Some people may experience more-serious neurological symptoms, depending on the location of the malformation, including severe headache, weakness, numbness or paralysis, vision loss, difficulty in speaking, inability to understand others and severe unsteadiness. Symptoms may begin at any age, but you are more likely to experience symptoms between ages 10 and 40. Brain malformation can damage brain tissue over time. The effects slowly build up, sometimes causing symptoms in early adulthood.
A brain malformation is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in your brain. Doctors believe that a brain malformation develops during fetal development. Why this occurs in some babies and not others is unknown. Normally, your heart sends oxygen-rich blood to your brain through arteries, which branch into smaller arterioles and subsequently to the smallest blood vessels. Oxygen is removed from blood in the capillaries and used by your brain. If you have a brain malformation, blood passes directly from your arteries to your veins via abnormal vessels. This disrupts the normal process of how blood circulates through your brain.
There are several potential treatment options for brain malformation. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition, depending on the size and location of the abnormal blood vessels. Medications may also be used to treat related symptoms, such as headaches or seizures. Other treatments may include surgical treatment of a small brain malformation which is relatively safe and effective. If you have few or no symptoms or if your AVM is in an area of your brain that’s hard to treat, your doctor may prefer to monitor your condition with regular checkups. A person with a brain malformation should have regular checkups with a neurologist or neurosurgeon.