Stroke: What is it, Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

A stroke, medically referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. This lack of blood flow can cause brain cells to become damaged or die within minutes. Strokes can result in various symptoms depending on the area of the brain affected, including paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, vision problems, and loss of balance or coordinations.

Types of stroke:

brain stroke image for
brain stroke

There are three main types of stroke:

Ischemic stroke:

This type of strokes occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for about 87 % of all strokes.

Hemorrhagic stroke:

This type of stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “mini-stroke”:

TIAs produce symptoms similar to those of a stroke but typically last only a few minutes and cause no permanent damage. They are often considered warning signs of an impending strokes and should be taken seriously.

Strokes are medical emergencies that require immediate treatment to minimize brain damage and potential complications. Treatment options may include medications to dissolve blood clots (if ischemic strokes), surgery to repair damaged blood vessels (if hemorrhagic stroke), and rehabilitation to regain lost skills and abilities.

brain stroke image for
brain stroke

Causes of Stroke

Strokes can have various causes, but they generally stem from problems with the blood supply to the brain. The main causes of stroke include:

Ischemic Stroke Causes:

Atherosclerosis: Buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries can lead to narrowing and eventual blockage, reducing blood flow to the brain.

Embolism: Blood clots or other particles (such as air bubbles or fatty deposits) can travel through the bloodstream and block smaller blood vessels in the brain.

Thrombosis: Blood clots can form within the arteries that supply blood to the brain, causing blockages.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Causes:

Hypertension (high blood pressure): Chronic high blood pressure weakens the walls of blood vessels, making them prone to rupture and bleed into the brain.

Weak spots in the blood vessel walls can balloon out and rupture, causing bleeding.
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM): Abnormal tangles of blood vessels can rupture and bleed into the brain.

Other Risk Factors:

Age: The risk of stroke increases with ages.

Gender: Men have a slightly higher risk of strokes, but women are more likely to die from a stroke.

Family history: Having a family history of strokes or certain genetic conditions can increase the risk.

Race and ethnicity: Some ethnic groups have a higher risk of strokes than others.

Lifestyle factors: Unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity can increase the risk of strokes.

Medical conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat), and previous strokes or TIAs can increase the risk.

Drug abuse: Illicit drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can increase the risk of strokes.
It’s essential to manage risk factors through lifestyle changes and medical treatment to help prevent strokes. Regular medical check-ups and consultations with healthcare professionals can help individuals identify and manage their risk factors effectively.

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brain stroke

Symptoms of Stroke

The symptoms of a stroke can vary depending on the type of strokes (ischemic or hemorrhagic) and the area of the brain affected. However, there are common signs to be aware of, which can be remembered using the acronym FAST:

Face drooping: One side of the face may droop or feel numbs. Ask the person to smile; if one side of the face does not move as well as the other, it could be a sign of strokes.

Arm weakness: One arm may be weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both arms; if one arm drifts downward or cannot be held up as well as the other, this could indicate a stroke.

Speech difficulty: Speech may be slurred, difficult to understand. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence; if they have trouble speaking or cannot repeat the sentence correctly, it could be a sign of stroke.

Time to call emergency services: If you observe any of these signs, it’s essential to call emergency services immediately. Time is crucial in treating a stroke, so it’s important not to delay seeking medical attention.

Other common symptoms of stroke can include sudden confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden severe headache with no known cause, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and difficulty walking. It’s important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and some strokes may present with symptoms that are not listed here. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, it’s crucial to seek medical help immediately.

brain stroke image for
brain stroke

The Treatment of Stroke

The treatment of stroke depends on whether it is ischemic or hemorrhagic and how quickly medical attention is received. Here is an overview of the treatment option:

Ischemic Stroke:

Clot-busting medication (Thrombolytics): If the stroke is diagnosed early and is determined to be caused by a blood clot blocking an artery in the brain, thrombolytic drugs such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may be administered intravenously to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain.

Mechanical thrombectomy: In some cases, particularly large artery occlusions, a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy may be performed. This involves using a catheter-based approach to physically remove the clot from the blocked artery.

Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications: These medications may be prescribed to prevent further clot formation and reduce the risk of future strokes.

Blood pressure management: Controlling blood pressure is crucial to prevent further damage to blood vessels in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke:

Surgery: If the hemorrhage is severe or causing pressure on the brain, surgery may be necessary to remove the blood clot or repair the ruptured blood vessel.

Medications: Medications may be administered to control blood pressure and prevent further bleeding.

Supportive care: Patients with hemorrhagic strokes may require intensive care and monitoring to manage complications such as swelling of the brain or seizures.
In both types of strokes, rehabilitation is an essential part of the treatment process. Strokes rehabilitation may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other interventions to help patients regain lost function and improve their quality of life.

It’s important to note that time is critical in the treatment of strokes. Rapid recognition of symptoms and prompt medical intervention can significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of disability or death. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, it’s crucial to call emergency services immediately.

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