Stroke Education & Treatment
A stroke is a sudden onset of a neurologic deficit characterized by the rapidly developing loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain, caused by a blocked or burst blood vessel. This can be due to ischemia (lack of glucose and oxygen supply) caused by thrombosis or embolism or due to a hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, leading to inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or inability to see one side of the visual field.
If you have symptoms of a stroke, emergency medical care. General symptoms of a stroke include:
- Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- New problems with walking or balance.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Drooling or slurred speech.
- New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
Symptoms vary depending on whether the stroke is caused by a clot or bleeding. The location of the blood clot or bleeding and the extent of brain damage can also affect symptoms.
Symptoms of an ischemic stroke (caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel) usually occur in the side of the body opposite from the side of the brain where the clot occurred. For example, a stroke in the right side of the brain affects the left side of the body.
Symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke (caused by bleeding in the brain) can be similar to those of an ischemic stroke but may be distinguished by symptoms relating to higher pressure in the brain, including severe headache, nausea and vomiting, neck stiffness, dizziness, seizures, irritability, confusion, and possibly unconsciousness.
Ischemic strokes are ultimately caused by a thrombus or embolus that blocks blood flow to the brain. Blood clots (thrombus clots) usually occur in areas of the arteries that have been damaged by atherosclerosis from a buildup of plaques. Embolus type blood clots are often caused by atrial fibrillation – an irregular pattern of heart beat that leads to blood clot formation in the heart and then the clot breaks off and travels to the brain.
Hemorrhage strokes are caused by a broken blood vessel and maybe due to high blood pressure, a head injury, or aneurysms. High blood pressure is the most common cause of cerebral hemorrhage, as it causes small arteries inside the brain to burst. This deprives brain cells of blood and dangerously increases pressure on the brain.
Aneurysms – abnormal blood-filled pouches that balloon out from weak spots in the wall of an artery – are the most common cause of subarachnoid hemorrhage. If an aneurysm ruptures, blood spills into the space between the surfaces of the brain and skull, and blood vessels in the brain may spasm. Aneurysms are often caused or made worse by high blood pressure.
If you have signs or symptoms of a stroke you should call 911 or be taken to the emergency room. The physicians there can evaluate you to see if in fact you are having a stroke.
Surgery, medications, hospital care and rehabilitation are all accepted stroke treatments.
Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure often performed when the carotid artery in the neck is partially blocked by a fatty buildup called plaque. This procedure can remove the accumulated plaque.
Cerebral angioplasty is another technique in which balloons, stents and coils are used to treat some types of problems with the brain’s blood vessels. Its widespread use depends on its safety and effectiveness.