The symptoms of arteriovenous malformation (AVM) vary widely, affecting different individuals to varying degrees. Most people with AVM experience very few or no symptoms. Their condition often becomes apparent only during treatment for an unrelated problem or during an autopsy. If no symptoms appear by the time a person is in their late 40s or early 50s, the AVM is likely to be stable and not cause any problems. However, about 12 percent of people with AVM experience symptoms vary in type and degree. Pregnancy may cause an onset or increase in symptoms related to changes in blood pressure. Some people may experience seizures throughout their lives and suffer permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. The condition is fatal in about 10 percent of cases where extensive bleeding occurs.
The first symptoms of AVM are those usually associated with a stroke, caused by blood leaking into surrounding brain tissue, occurring in 2 to 4 percent of all AVMs. Hemorrhages may occur at any time throughout a person’s life, but most often affect people in their mid to late teens.
A number of signs may indicate an AVM that has not bled:
- Ear noise/buzzing in the ears (called pulsatile tinnitus)
- Headache either localized or felt in the entire head; may resemble a migraine
- Problems walking
- Impaired vision
- Muscle weakness
If a person experiences these or any other symptoms that may indicate a disorder of the brain, the physicians at the Florida Hospital Neuroscience Institute strongly encourage them to seek a consultation as soon as possible with a neurological health care specialist.