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"What causes inflammation of the veins and arteries in the head?"


I am having strange problems with my balance and with headaches, so my doctor gave me an MRI. She says that the veins and arteries around my brain are inflamed, if I understood her right. What could cause problems like this? Is this a lifethreatening illness?


This is an example how we as physicians need to do a better job explaining to our patients what we find on our tests and images. Your description of the veins and arteries around your brain being inflamed could mean many different things. I will try to go over a few of the possibilities.

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In general, the term vasculitis, or angiitis is used to describe blood vessels that are inflamed. There are many different types of vasculitis which can cause this, and they each have different treatments and prognosis. There is an a very rare condition known as central nervous system vasculitis in which the blood vessels associated with the brain get inflamed. MRI is not enough to make this diagnosis, so I think with MRI alone, there is still not enough evidence for your doctor to diagnose you until a biopsy is done. The symptoms of central nervous system vasculitis can be many different things, but headache is definitely one of them. Sometimes it is treated with steroids. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with the physician that ordered the head MRI. Discuss the results of the study with respect to what the next step is going to be. Hopefully, the finding was not indicative of anything dangerous, or what was found is very treatable. Good luck.

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