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What are Brain Lesions?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Brain lesions are areas of the brain that have been damaged by disease, congenital malformation, trauma, or other causes. While the thought of brain damage may be rather frightening to many people, the severity of lesions actually varies considerably — some are not a major cause for concern, while others can indicate the presence of a serious problem. They can vary in size and composition. Being diagnosed with a brain lesion, in other words, is not an immediate cause for panic.

These areas of injury are usually identified in a medical imaging study such as an MRI. Imaging studies of the brain are generally conducted when a neurologist suspects that a patient has experienced some type of brain damage. The study can reveal the location and size of the lesion, and sometimes it can be used to gather information about the nature of the injury, and its possible causes.

An MRI of a human head, which can be used to check for brain lesions.
An MRI of a human head, which can be used to check for brain lesions.

Some examples of brain lesions include abscesses, which are caused by infection in the brain, and arteriovenous malformations, clusters of veins which have grown abnormally. Lesions can also be caused by head injuries, strokes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Cancers in the brain also classically cause lesions.

A MRI scanner can be used to detect brain lesions.
A MRI scanner can be used to detect brain lesions.

People with brain lesions can experience different sorts of symptoms. Some people demonstrate no symptoms at all, and the lesion may be discovered by accident. Others may experience mood changes, vision changes, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and loss of motor control as a result of the damage. Because neurological damage can take a lot of forms and can be very subtle, medical professionals may not realize right away that a lesion is causing medical problems.

Some people with brain lesions experience headaches.
Some people with brain lesions experience headaches.

There are several different approaches to these areas of injury in the brain, depending on their cause. Sometimes, a wait and see approach is used, with the medical professional doing nothing but keeping a close eye on the patient for changes which might suggest that the lesion is getting worse. In other cases, surgery may be needed to learn more about the area of damage and to treat it, and treatments such as medications, physical therapy, and chemotherapy may be used to treat other types. Patients with lesions that require treatment may want to consider getting a second opinion from another neurologist, as this field of the medical profession is constantly changing, and new approaches and treatment techniques are always being developed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Doctors don't know much when it comes to the brain or autoimmune diseases.


I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia and is being treated with several medications from tegratol, glepatin and if that don't help I have tramadol. An mri was done and I was told I have a small lesion next to the triminial Neuralgia nerve area. My question is why so many medications? This is my second episode to the nerve acting up. Whats up with this. I have been also told that I'm not a candidate for laser treatments because I am responding to the medications. I have been out of work for 2 months and don't feel good yet.


I have had severe headaches and had an MRI 6 months ago. It showed one brain lesion. The MRI was just repeated and I have that lesion (unchanged) plus three more, which are larger. Other than severe headaches once in a while, I have no symptoms. Is it possible that the lesions aren't dangerous and just a result of my migraines? My bloodwork is clear. Thanks.


I was told I had brain lesions on both hemispheres of my brain and one on my cervical spine. I've had a likely diagnosis of multiple sclerosis given to me but not definite. Could these lesions be harmless or they the reasons for my symptoms and being given a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis?


I have suffered a constant headache for the last two and a half years. I go to bed with it and get up in the morning with it. Three MRI scans later, I am no further forward apart from the knowing that there is a lesion on the brain and it just looks like a white bullet is lodged in my brain. It hasn't grown in the last two and half years. There has been no blood test taken to find out more info as to what it could be or if it is the start of something.

Should I ask my doctor to look into it more or go to someone else and get a second opinion? Any info would be appreciated.


I feel for so many who suffer. I am a smart and determined man who does not take anything at face value and have suffered from many symptoms. I finally paid to have a labcorp cd57 test (my insurance paid for it) and it was a super low number. I also did the igenex test and they both came back positive for me and my two boys. The cd57 test has to be done by Labcorp! If you cannot afford the igenex, which is about $240, at least do the labcorp test. It's a good first step.

Anyhow, I researched alternatives for a long time, but with scientific study backing on each, not just someone's idea, or a book. I thought Harrod Buhner's book was one of the best, and although it is based upon Lyme Disease, many things in there will bring relief to other things. Many Chinese herbs are good too, but it's hard to find any good info on them. I found an ingredient list for Byron White formulas and researched the ingredients and Gou tang and Stephania root are a few more add ons. Stephania root also works for neurologic swelling, among other things. Along with resveratrol, it takes much of the pain away.

Other herbs such as vinpocetine and huperzine A are great for repairing cognitive pathways. Someone is in the process of patenting a drug using the compound for Alzheimer's. I have made my own capsules and liquids and tried them on myself and friends who have had little lasting success with pharmaceuticals.


Don't forget cavernous malformations! Many people are suffering from a genetic form that leads toward multiple cavernous malformations. Does anyone know why Laser ablation surgery is only being used for qualifying epileptic brain lesions? It seems to me, from a layman's perspective, and parent of a child who underwent cavernoma resection, that laser ablation surgery could be used for a variety of brain lesions?


I just got out of the hospital after a 60-day stay. My vision was double, I had headaches and I am learning how to walk again. I fall down a lot It's not a lot of fun.


I feel sorry for many that have posted here. No doctor or person can really empathize with how you are feeling unless they have had similar brain traumas. No amount of studying or books can replace what it is like to experience it first hand. The symptoms (many depending on location) are caused from damage. The damage is either the hit and run variety or the chronic, waxing and waning type of MS, Lyme, CM etc. It can be from swelling of tiny blood vessels in the brain or inflammation from a battle with proteins, virus or bacteria. The brain heals, but if the battle continues so will symptoms.

The MRI is very crude in its resolution. In order for a lesion to appear, it has to be quite large. MRIs are often negative in early encephalitis. The symptoms are there, but nothing on the MRI until you are almost dead.

Blood tests are often unreliable for many pathogens. Probably the two most common pathogens which cause a slow waxing and waning type are the herpes class virus and lyme bacteria. They can smolder for years staying under the radar causing symptoms consistent with depression, MS, fibromyalgia and the like. Most likely, these people will be treated for symptoms (steroids, antidepressants, etc.) rather than the source. Treating the source would require antivirals or antibiotics.

Why these common viruses cause symptoms in some people and not others is a bit of a mystery. It could be genetic or possibly environmental triggers, also the strain of the pathogen may play a role. Growing evidence suggests a viral or bacterial link to: MS, Alzheimer, Behcet's, ALS, etc. All of those diseases have an unknown cause. None are treated as infectious diseases, thus none are cured. We are still in the stone age in this area of medicine.

For now, I think the doctors best able to help many of you are the infectious disease (some) and the lyme treating physicians. They at least understand that many pathogens can and do smolder for years slowly taking away a person's life, little by little. I hope there comes a day when these invisible diseases are no more. I feel your pain.


My son was suffering from a non-stop headache that lasted over aix weeks and an MRI revealed 13 white spots which pointed toward MS.

We were sent to a neurologist and blood was drawn and the results were that his antibodies showed gluten sensitivity. The labs also revealed Celiac disease. We are going to see a GI doctor next and on to a gluten free diet.


In August of last year, for two weeks, my speech was slurred on and off and I had a severe headache. I then had numbness and lost all strength in my right side. My face dropped on that side also.

The hospital did an mri and said I have multiple small scattered punctuate foci of high signal in the subcortical and deep white matter of both cerebral hemispheres, more than one would expect for someone my age. What is this? I am in constant pain daily on my right side, yet the doctor said the left side of my brain would have caused the right to be paralyzed. That came back before my wedding in October but my face still droops on the right. For headaches I now have arthrexin. The neurologist can't diagnose my headaches and says they are maybe a hemicrania continua type, but he is stumped as to the diagnosis, but after seven months of extreme pain, I feel I can't cope. Still, I have a new husband and two children and do all I can to not show any pain and carry on as normal. Today I feel at my lowest.


Just an FYI for everyone here. There are often times that people will show Idiopathic (no known cause) WML (white matter lesions). Some people just get them; they are not always cause for dire concern. With that said, let me also explain a little more about White Matter Lesions:

Your brain is made up of bundles and bundles of neurons. Neurons have a big head on them called the soma or cell body (often referred to as grey matter) and the "tail" is referred to as the axon. The axons are covered in a fatty insulating type of material called myelin. It is referred to as white matter. Now, when a neuron sends a signal that signal travels from the soma down through the axon, the myelin around the axon acts much like the insulator on a wire. If you have a wire with frayed insulation it will not conduct electricity as efficiently. This holds true for your brain and its white matter as well.

If the myelin is damaged, the brain may have trouble transmitting some signals as efficiently as it normally would. However, the good news about white matter or myelin, is there are cells called ogliodendrocytes that will come and repair that myelin if given the chance. The neuron itself cannot be repaired, but the myelin can. If you have WML's and the diagnosis is found to be an autoimmune disease, once that autoimmune disease is treated, there is a very good chance they will be repaired.

Also keep in mind that with neurological disorders there are so many "great mimickers" that it is a process of elimination and to find the true cause you must rule out what it is not first.

(A little information on me. I am a 34 year old Neurodiagnostics Technician and I have WML's of unknown origin throughout as well as a seizure disorder, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder).


@Post 30: I so sympathize with you. I had all the symptoms you speak of and it's been two years out of work for me. They had me in therapy (which is just a band-aid) for the massive depressive disorder. Of course it didn't work. Now, I'm seeing a shrink and don't feel like that's working, either. I just cannot accept this has happened to me (and all of us). I had a plan for my life but I didn't have Plan B. I wish you the best of luck. I know what you're going through. I just don't know how to fix it. You are not alone, that's for sure.


I have cns lupus. When I'm around anyone with any type of infection, knowingly or not, I usually get extremely ill. How I got brain lesions is beyond me but my rheumatologist says it's because of the lupus.

I had such severe headaches - felt like my head was going to pop off. After six months of chemo (cytoxan), no more headaches but a plethora of other problems to keep me occupied. The depression over having to stop working. I wobble and can't walk a straight line. Gait ataxia isn't the same as chorea, which is what they thought at first, but now it seems the deteriorating disc in my lumbar is the cause.

Lupus is a very odd disease and something usually pops up unexpectedly, which means another prescription and I have such a hard time keeping 27 different meds straight. Then there's dealing with SSD - not fun.

So, I'm sick, broke, and looking at losing my health and everything I've worked for my whole life like my house and I can no longer drive. My ex left me, my kids try to help but can't, I have isolated myself from friends and family. I'm just miserable. And, this is not me. I miss being me.


To anon131044: I have the exact same thing happen to me at night. But the neurologist says it is not normal myoclonic seizures. Waiting to do an EEG because my body cannot lie still for the MRI and he does not want to sedate me. I have not had an accident or head trauma. It just came on suddenly. I think I have a lesion, but am waiting on further testing.


I have a brain lesion (Persistent septum cavum interpositum) and i have symptoms like giddiness. i have been diagnosed by the doctors. the doctors said it is a congenital disease. Is it curable? I am age 17.


I am a 33 year old female. I went to the ER because I was feeling extreme pressure in my head when i would stand up (which i do a lot as I work in an office and am constantly up and down all day), pressure/throbbing in head, muffled hearing that is in rhythm with the throbbing in my head.

I was in the hospital for three days. i had two ct scans, one mri, and an ultrasound of my heart and cervix. Everything was clean, except for my brain. The MRI shows lesions. They said they are 99 percent sure it's not cancer. they don't know what it is. possibly migraines (I get headaches a lot) causing the lesions, stroke or a blood vessel issue.

I see a neurologist next week. I am extremely worried and pray for the best. The neurosurgeon said he didn't think it's cancer either, and that he doesn't want to do a biopsy because he truly thinks it's something that can be resolved other ways.

Has anyone else been through anything like this? I am scared! The pressure in my head peaks when I lie down. I am scared to go to sleep. I will sleep good for about two hours then am waked up by the extreme pressure feeling. anyone have any thoughts/advice?


I am at my wits' end. I was diagnosed with a inflammatory brain stem lesion last October. I was hospitalized for a few days and then sent away with lots of steroids etc. I have had facial numbness, fatigue, sickness, vertigo, balance/dizzy spells, severe headaches, pain in my wrist, toes etc etc. I had three months off work seeing my neuro every now and again.

He recommended a return to work in the new year, only to fail after four weeks and am off sick again. The only resolving issue is the facial numbness has reduced. I insisted on another MRI and this showed the lesion still there but apparently reduced. I could tell really and the radio was generally not really interested as he said nothing new and it has reduced slightly.

I now face severe financial issues as work won't pay me. I have depression and counseling and continued neuro symptoms, I couldn't deal with work, and had problems with confidence, being sick, etc. and also my memory was poor and I felt very slow.

I am now seeking another neuro to help but this has been going on five months and I would like to see if anyone would know how long this will go on for? Thanks.


i have had numbness in hands feet,sciatica, eye pain, visual disturbances like a cloudy film or lens placed over one eye that was dx as ocular migraine and 2-5 lesions on my brain. I have facial numbness, sever neck pain with spasms, previously dx with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Epstein-Barr Virus, carpal tunnel, migraine with aura spots of cloudiness on one eye.

My radio was a little flippant with me and said I should come see her if my symptoms worsened. I have had severe vertigo since December 2010. My doctor said it's viral and there's nothing she can do. I can't even move in bed because I get so dizzy I feel like I've been hit by a tidal wave. Should I see another neurologist?


My problem started with me getting nausea, feeling faint, and lack of mobility - walking followed by a headache which lasted for a couple of days. A Ct showed a problem so I was to get an MRI which shows brain leisons.

This week, I am seeing a specialist hopefully find out exactly what is going on. Reading the numerous posts has helped. Others understand. I am not alone. God bless all of you.


I don't feel so alone. I was just searching out more info on brain lesions. I have two large ones. One in the frontal lobe and one at the base of my brain. These cause me myoclonic seizures. After being knocked out from a biking accident, I just quit sleeping one night. Six weeks later, I still hadn't slept more than an hour and half per night.

Needless to say I would go crazy like in the middle of the night. I would have these horrible jump of the bed seizures and inside my brain felt like it was exploding. That was 12 years ago. I am on two different anti-seizure meds and a med to help me sleep. Or sleep doesn't come.

I'm getting worse and have been sleeping with a mouth guard for four years. I hate the thing but without it, I bite myself on the cheeks or inside my lip so bad. Does anyone have these symptoms? I don't know another "soul" who has these. It is a super hyper startle reflex and I twitch all over if not properly medicated.

I have trouble with finding words and fall a lot. One of these days I fear I'm going to get myself killed from bashing my head. Anyone else out there?


To the person who asked bout the pituitary tumor, they very well might be related. I had a pituitary tumor when I was 14. now i am 21 and i have a brain lesion. When i had my pituitary tumor i lost the sight in my left eye. Just hang in there. you will get through it!


I too can relate to the pain and balance and memory issues. i was born with a disorder called neurofibromatosis that causes tumors all over the body including the brain.

I've had a lesion on the left side deep in the brain that was found in 2001. this year, a couple of weeks ago, i had an mri and they found two more on the right front lobe they are 3 mm apiece.

i have excruciating headaches balance and memory problems. i am going to see a neurosurgeon to see if i need surgery or see what any other options are and I'm scared to death of having surgery if i need it as well. everyone who is going through similar problems are all in my prayers and please keep me in yours. I've never met any of you or even spoken to any of you but you still feel like family to me because we all know what each other is going through. take care and god be with you all.


Almost two years ago, I crashed my van while having my first big seizure. The mri showed one small lesion. Since then it's been a wheel of medications causing the most suicidal thoughts of all time, then leveling off. Apathy and distance from doctors. Just read all of your posts. I'm so glad to have found people I can relate to. Let's continue to help each other!


I have chronic neuro lyme and my MRI showed a lot of lesions and damage to my frontal lobe. I have had a ton of cognitive and memory issues.

I have my follow-up appointment on Monday to go over all the results. I've read lesions and lyme are common but can cause seizures and such.

If I don't get a hold on the lyme, my brain will

continue to deteriorate. I've been in treatment with a very good LLMD since April.


I have lyme disease and have five brain lesions, the largest being 6mm. I am on IV and antibiotics and wondering if anyone has lyme. I heard that with lyme treatment, the lesions can go away. I have depersonalization, not feeling I am who I am in spurts, days or months at a time. Word search and balance lately are the greater symptoms.


my boy friend has a 2.6cm lesion in the frontal lobe and the doctors are not able to find out the cause. He has not had any accidents, doesn't drink, is a non smoker and does not take any drugs. What can be be the possible cause for this?


Here is a possible answer for every post here:

First, I too, have brain lesions and I am getting much better. No headaches, very few weird brain feelings (like blood vessels vibrating) balance, memory, and energy much much better.

Here is what I did:

1. Juiced everyday, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, apples, variety of other greens.

2. Completely stopped bad sugars, candy etc.

3.Searched online for natural health cures, found several sites and bought about three products, Genista tea being one of them.

4. Do not smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol

5. Eat fish and take fish oil.

In other words, get your body Ph to more alkaline than before by juicing vegetables. Do not cook them.

I have also gone off my dilantin from 400 mg, to 100mg, but I did this slowly over four months. Exercise as best as you can and you will see a notable difference in 30 days.

Also get Leonard Coldwell's books "The only answer to Cancer" is a start.

Please don't give up. doctors don't always think out of the box. You do what I laid out and you will be much better for it. --Robert


I too was told i have numerous brain lesions. After stroke like symptoms, I was sent to a neurologist four hours away, only to get there and find out my primary care physician had not sent my mri results to the neurologist.

I have horrible memory loss and mood swings so severe, that i have considered suicide.

I'm miserable, have no health insurance and no one will listen or help me. I'm so tired physically and emotionally, i don't know what to do!


I have been told I have everything from epilepsy, low grade glioma, white matter ischemic changes to a lesion. However the lesion is slow growing.

I have seizures grand mal and petit mal. I have a feeling that shoots across my head -- it's not painful, just scary. My doctor gives me steroids that seem to only take the taste out of my mouth. What is really going on when this stuff shoots through my head? I have a bad headache afterwards and I become very paranoid. Please give the answers my doctor can't or won't.


I have been strung around for four years, I have had a previous Mri and had "many lesions" one being 6 mm in length. I basically just dealt with it and was checked for Fabry's disease and Mayo said there was a genetic mutation but later I found out from another genetic clinic it did not respond to any of the known mutations for Fabry's so I got stuck going to pain management.

I have had pain in my hands and heaviness in my calf muscles and some memory loss. The pain management sent me to a neuro doc and it was a total nightmare. The latest Mri noted that I had 15 lesions. I am so frustrated, I pray every day that god will find out what this is or just to go ahead and take me. This has ruled my life. I have had to go on medical leave from school and I just stay at home now. Anyone have any suggestions? --christy


I am a combat soldier who was injured in Iraq. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in 2007. The Army had sent me to these doctors for these tests. I recently had to return to be evaluated by the Army again and they seemed to have lost the paper work on my TBI.

I had an MRI of my brain and they found a lesion on the front right lobe. I have had mood swings, balance issues and memory issues. But the Army is unsure if I ever had a TBI. Now how about that?


Some of the stories that I've read here seems so familiar. i too, have a lesion on my brain in the right hemisphere. I've suffered various symptoms: vertigo, balance issues, memory loss, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling in my legs, arms etc and still nothing five years later.

I've been told i have ms then it was taken away then again in dec i am on a rocket ship with nowhere to go. It's frustrating. I feel you agony but above all don't give up. keep your faith.


what are lesions? please tell me as doctor told me i have a severe on my head.


To 55381-#7: Get a lumbar test for MS. It's quick and fairly easy. They take fluid from your spine and test it. Lesions are not a definite science, from what I understand.

Doctors do not have a cure or reason for the headaches, so be proactive and make your doctor treat you. He/She can always be fired and new Doctor moved into place. Be careful of the merry-go-round. Good luck.


This is the first time that I don't feel totally alone. Lesions were found on my brain after being hit by a vehicle while on my bicycle.

I have a metal shoulder, lesions, and horrible headaches and migraines. I too, feel like i am being passed from doctor to doctor -- oops, it's not MS, so I can't help you anymore (after MRI,CT scan).

I am frustrated and feeling depressed.

Hydrocodone and tramadol help but every new doctor thinks I should get a shot of steroids, etc. They have no empathy for my daily life. They label them "rebound headaches" and believe me, I know the difference!

I am not an addict; I just want to live as pain free as possible. Any suggestions? I am a 47 year old female college student.


i have white brain lesions, this is terrible. you pay all this money for no answer. all has been ruled out, including cancer. where are the older doctors, the ones with knowledge and who cares.


I was diagnosed with ms three years ago by mri scan, as i had 12 lesions amongst loads of other symptoms. i wasn't getting any better so i went for second opinion. only to be told i might not have ms. i have another condition rare connective tissue disorder but not sure yet which one have to go see dermatologist. I'm so mad I've been getting loads of treatment for years and now they're not sure.


I need help. I have what is said to be 4-5 foci of t2 prolongation on mri. My spinal Mri was clear, except for a lesion in the vertebral body itself.

I have had ms symptoms off and on for 10 years, but recently after a bout of the flu, I have been unable to recover from pain, numbness, psychological problems and electrical shocks, to name a few. Doctors say it is nothing. I am not convinced.

My tongue has been numb for a week. I am extremely fatigued and the doctor put me on elavil, which is making me a zombie and not helping with the pain.

Is there anyone out there who thinks they may have ms, but is unable to get a diagnosis? Are there any doctors that will actually believe me, or are they all going to think I am insane?


I was diagnosed with 27 brain lesions. I'm experiencing M.S. type symptoms, however a lumbar test said that was a negative.

At first they seemed concerned, but now they say they just don't know and pass me around with no answers. The pain at times is excruciating and loss of function frustrating. I pray for it to just be over and go to heaven. Can someone give me some answers or advice?


Bless you all. I am sorry you have to struggle and wait, and it doesn't help that the professional doesn't seem to feel the urgency you do. I believe they are just so often baffled, as some have limited knowledge bases (there is an awful lot to know, you know).

I suspect fungal/parasitic infections or food allergies (gluten is huge problem) or something else.

These challenge more than immunity, including hormone synthesis and glycogenesis. Could be a big contributor to so many diseases, and only throwing antibiotics and steroids at them don't seem to help, and in fact will exacerbate the problems I earlier mentioned.

Push for more fully integrated care. You are paying for it in more ways than one. You have that right.

Best wishes, rest and take care.


I too have one brain lesion in my pituitary gland. I am not experiencing any mood changes but my goodness, I can't even balance right and my migraines are off the chart pain. I've been in and out of the ER and stayed in the hospital for four days. they could not do anything. weakness -- yes I've got that, dizziness, yes, nausea, yes, I've fallen at least three times. Just hang in there.


I was told in january i had abnormalies on my brain. i've been for a ct scan and mri, one with dye. i have epilipsy due to this and am now waiting for another mri. i feel completely in the dark. This has being going on now for 10 months although at the start i was led to believe it was a matter of life and death. Is this still the case? i simply don't know and am going mad.


I have been seeing a neurologist for a year. I had an M.R.I. scan and it shows lesions on the cerebellum. I have been suffering severe verbal communication difficulty and committing to memory, e.g. learning poetry.

As well as I can make out, he is only monitoring the rate of deprecation of my condition. -- R.A.M. 259


So does anybody know if its common to have a Brain Lesion with Pituitory Tumors or if the 2 are related? as i have both.

I have also been suffering severe mood changes, severe headaches and nausea and sometimes experience not being able to move or get up, my eyesight has also deteriorated in the last 6 months although the lesion and tumor have been known to be present for almost 4 years .

I feel like I am going crazy as I wait for a follow up MRI in a few weeks time, if anyone has any info to offer on this I would really appreciate it.

thank you

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    • An MRI of a human head, which can be used to check for brain lesions.
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      An MRI of a human head, which can be used to check for brain lesions.
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