Learning About Strokes
A stroke, also known as cerebrovascular disease, occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted or significantly reduced, which deprives brain tissue of nutrients and oxygen. Brain cells begin to die within minutes of oxygen deprivation. An interruption is typically due to a burst blood vessel or a blood clot. A stroke can be life threatening, so getting immediate treatment is crucial. Early intervention may minimize brain damage and reduce the risk of possible complications.
Cause of Strokes
A stroke occurs due to blood vessels that have been damaged. There are a variety of reasons for damaged blood vessels and although strokes happen suddenly, damage to blood vessels happens slowly, typically over several years. The most common causes for damaged blood vessels may include:
- Heart disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- High blood pressure
- Increased blood lipids
- Unhealthy life style
The symptoms of a stroke vary depending on the type of stroke, however, a stroke can affect any brain function. The most common symptoms of stroke include:
- Sudden trouble standing or maintaining balance
- Sudden confusion
- Difficulty speaking and/or understanding speech
- Sudden and severe headache
- Sudden problem with vision
Types of Strokes
There are two types of strokes; ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke, each of which has their own subcategories of strokes.
- An ischemic stroke is caused by a clot or blockage within an artery that leads to the brain. This is the most common type of stroke. There are two types of ischemic stroke; thrombotic stroke and embolic stroke. A thrombotic stroke occurs if there is a blood clot inside of the arteries of the brain, whereas an embolic stroke occurs if a blood clot forms in an artery outside of the brain.
- A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a rupture in a brain vessel, which causes blood to leak into the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is typically associated with high blood pressure. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke; intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. An intracerebral hemorrhage is internal bleeding that can occur in any part of the brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is caused by the presence of blood within the subarachnoid space, vascular malformation, tumors and/or an infection.
The type of treatment offered depends on the type of stroke. In order to determine the type of stroke, your neurologist will typically do an emergency brain scan, usually a CT scan. Some patients may be prescribed medications that may help to prevent further clotting. Identifying the cause of the blood vessel damage is important as well, in order to reduce the risk of future strokes.
The good news is a stroke can be treated and often prevented. It is essential that you have routine physical examinations and talk with your doctor about any changes in your health as soon as the change occurs.