Understanding Moyamoya Disease and How It Affects Your Body


Moyamoya is a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disease that restricts blood flow to the brain. In people with moyamoya disease, the carotid artery in the skull narrows, preventing the brain from getting the necessary blood and oxygen. Moyamoya affects about 1 in 1 million people and primarily affects children, but it can occur in adults as well.

Without surgical intervention, most adults and children with moyamoya will experience multiple strokes and cognitive decline as the condition progresses.

Neurosurgeon Dr. David Newell can perform several types of surgery to restore blood flow to your brain. This involves opening or bypassing narrowed arteries. The surgery Dr. Newell recommends depends on a number of factors, including your age. Dr. Newell will work with you and discuss the best treatment option for you or your child.

Cognitive impairment

Adults with moyamoya disease can experience cognitive impairment. Executive functioning, mental efficiency and word finding are most often affected. This is the result of ongoing low oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Even patients who haven’t had a stroke may experience problems with:

Surgery to restore blood flow may help improve cognitive impairment.


Moyamoya can cause a disruption in the electrical activity in the brain. Some patients experience seizures as a result.

During a seizure, bursts of uncontrolled electrical activity occur in the brain. This can cause different symptoms depending on where in the brain the seizure occurs. Some patients experience involuntary movement, while others experience symptoms such as dizziness.

Medications may help manage seizures in patients with moyamoya disease.

Developmental delays

Because moyamoya impacts how well the brain works, pediatric patients may suffer from developmental delays. Children with moyamoya may take longer to learn information and may have problems memorizing.

Children who experience strokes tend to have issues with executive function and may require specialized care. Early intervention to restore blood flow and protect the brain may help reduce complications from the disease.

Visual disturbance

In some cases, moyamoya disease may affect your vision. Some patients experience attacks of decreased sharpness in their vision, blurry vision and temporary blindness. Visual disturbances occur more often in pediatric patients and less often in people with adult onset moyamoya disease.

Direct revascularization may reduce visual disturbances in moyamoya disease. In this procedure, Dr. Newell increases blood flow by connecting a scalp artery directly to the cerebral artery in the middle of the brain.

Stroke and mini stroke

A stroke is often the first symptom of moyamoya. A stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain become blocked. The blockage interrupts the flow of oxygen and blood carried to the brain. Symptoms include weakness or numbness in the face, arm or legs. This often occurs on one side of the body. Some patients may experience difficulty speaking and other symptoms.

A mini stroke, or transient ischemic attack, is like a stroke. However, the symptoms last only a few minutes and cause no permanent damage. Symptoms include slurred speech, sudden severe headache, and paralysis, usually on one side of the body. Treatment focuses on reducing the risk of future strokes.

To learn more about moyamoya treatment with Dr. Newell, call our Bellevue, Washington, office to schedule an appointment or request your appointment online.

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