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Diseases & Conditions

Stroke

StrokeCausesPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypesRehabilitation Program

What is Stroke?

A stroke is caused when there is a severe interruption or reduction of blood supply to a part of the brain, leading to deprivation of oxygen and food to the brain tissue.

Causes of Stroke

Different strokes are caused by different factors.

  • Ischemic stroke: These occur when there is a narrowing or blockage of arteries to the brain, causing blood flow to be reduced severely. There are 2 main types of Ischemic stroke
    • Thrombotic stroke. The formation of a thrombus, or a clot in the blood, in an artery that supplies blood to your brain causes a thrombotic stroke.
    • Embolic stroke. When a clot in the blood from another part of the body gets swept into the bloodstream and narrows an artery that supplies blood to the brain, it leads to an embolic stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: A leak or rupture in a blood vessel in the brain leads to a hemorrhagic stroke. There are 2 main kinds of hemorrhagic strokes:
    • Intracerebral hemorrhage. This condition is characterized by brain cells getting damaged due to a blood carrier in a part of the brain bursting and spilling into brain tissue adjacent to it.
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage. This condition is characterized by bleeding that begins in one of the artery that is near or on the top layer of your brain, buts leaks into the area that is between the skull and the surface of the brain.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack: Also called a mini stroke, it is a momentary reduction in the supply of blood to a part of the brain.

Prevention of Stroke

There are many ways of preventing a stroke including:

  • Controlling hypertension
  • Lowering the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Practicing moderation in drinking alcohol
  • Avoiding illicit drugs

If you have had an ischemic stroke or Transient ischemic attack (TIA), the doctor may recommend certain medication to prevent another occurrence of a stroke. These include:

  • Anti-platelet medication. Cells in the blood that cause clots are called platelets. Anti-platelet medication helps in making these cells difficult to clot. The most commonly used drug that is an anti-platelet is aspirin.
  • Anticoagulants. These drugs also prevent clotting in the blood. There are some that are extremely fast acting and may be used during hospitalization. Others are slow acting and may be used over long-term treatment and rehabilitation.

Risk Factors of a Stroke

The most common risk factors of a stroke may include:

  • Heredity
  • Ageing
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Diabetes
  • Excess body weight
  • Sedentary lifestyle and inactivity
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Heavy alcohol use and habit of binge drinking
  • Use of drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine
  • Hormone therapies and birth control pills
  • Being African American

Symptoms of a Stroke

These are the major symptoms of a stroke:

  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Sudden troubles with speaking or understanding what is spoken
  • Numbness or paralysis on any one side of facial muscles or the body
  • Sudden trouble seeing with either or both eyes
  • Sudden and severe headache

Treatment for a Stroke

A stroke requires emergency treatment. It will depend upon whether you are having an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic Stroke

  • Blood thinning drugs
  • Delivery of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) through IV
  • TPA delivered directly to the brain
  • Mechanical clot removal

To prevent another stroke, doctors may recommend:

  • Carotid endarterectomy, and/or
  • Angioplasty and stents

Hemorrhagic stroke

  • Medication to prevent blood clots
  • Surgical blood vessel repair.

Types of Stroke

There are 2 main kinds of stroke. These are:

  • Ischemic Stroke
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke

Stroke Rehabilitation Program

After emergency treatment, most stroke patients are recommended a rehabilitation program to help them regain their strength, recover as much function as possible and return to independent living. After-effects of a stroke include problems with breathing, swallowing, balancing and hearing. You may also experience loss of vision and loss of bladder or bowel function. Rehabilitation programs are thus an important part of recovery from a stroke.