Claudia Chaves, MD, is board-certified in cerebrovascular disease and neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology. She is an associate professor of neurology at Tufts Medical School and medical director of the Lahey Clinic Multiple Sclerosis Center in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Strokes can occur in different ways and affect different areas of the brain. The extent of the damage varies depending on what part of the brain is injured.
The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke, caused when a blood clot travels to the brain, interrupting blood flow and depriving the brain of oxygen. Hemorrhagic strokes, which account for approximately 13% of strokes, occur when a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain.
In the aftermath of a stroke, many patients undergo physical, occupational, and speech therapy to restore function. In general, the sooner a stroke is recognized and treated, the better the prognosis.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot impedes blood flow to the brain. Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arrhythmia. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, such as in cases of high blood pressure, aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation.
Key signs of a stroke include facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulties. Other possible signs are vision problems, a severe headache, confusion, and dizziness. Less commonly, first signs of a stroke can include incontinence, lack of coordination, and a sudden sensation of burning or tingling of the skin.
The best ways to prevent a stroke are to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you smoke, find out how to quit. Reducing alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are also important.
In most cases, stroke symptoms are not painful, although a severe headache may occur in hemorrhagic strokes. The most common signs are drooping on one side of the face, weakness in an arm or leg, and difficulty speaking normally.
Heat stroke can occur as a result of extreme heat exposure and is a medical emergency. Heat stroke typically comes on suddenly, worsens quickly, and may lead to a coma, irreversible brain damage, and death.
A mini stroke, also called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a pre-stroke, is a brief stroke that resolves on its own. As with stroke, there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. In the case of a mini stroke, however, blood flow is quickly restored before permanent brain injury can occur.
Stress is not an independent risk factor for stroke. However, stress is linked with factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity, all of which, in turn, increase stroke risk.
Reducing blood pressure with intravenous medications is the first step in treating a hemorrhagic stroke; if the patient takes a blood thinner, something will be given to reverse its effects. If the hemorrhage is small, supportive care may be all that is needed. For more serious strokes, surgery may be needed to repair the rupture and stop the bleeding.
A group of blood vessels that are abnormally interconnected with one another. AVMs can occur throughout the body. AVMs that occur in the brain may be particularly harmful and cause stroke symptoms.
A blockage caused by deposits of cholesterol and other lipids, calcium, and large inflammatory cells; also called plaques. When plaque builds up in the arterial walls, it can disrupt blood flow to the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke.
Also called heart disease, cardiovascular disease is a term used for a wide variety of heart conditions that can affect the heart muscle, valves, vessels, structure, electrical system, or coronary arteries.
Strokes caused by a ruptured blood vessel, leading to bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are subdivided into two types: intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage.
A stroke caused by blockage of one of the blood vessels leading to the brain. There are two types of ischemic stroke. A thrombotic stroke is caused by a clot directly inside the blood vessel; an embolic stroke is when the blood clot originates in other areas of the body, such as the heart, and travels to blood vessels in the brain.
Also called a mini stroke, a transient ischemic attack is a brief stroke that resolves on its own. Unlike with an actual stroke, blood flow during a TIA is quickly restored before permanent brain injury can occur.
American Stroke Association. Hemorrhagic stroke (bleeds).