An Overview of Vascular Neurology

Vascular neurology is the specialized treatment of strokes and stroke risk factors. You may need to see a vascular neurologist during or after a stroke, or if you are at risk of having a stroke.

Vascular neurologists are often called stroke doctors because, in addition to taking care of people who have neurological conditions, they concentrate all or most of their work on taking care of people who have challenging stroke problems.

All neurologists have a great deal of experience in managing strokes. Vascular neurology requires additional subspecialty training after completion of a four year neurology residency. This subspecialty training may take between one to three years, and is focused on the latest techniques in stroke care, including interventional treatments.

A stroke is characterized by symptoms such as weakness, numbness, vision changes and speech disturbance. These symptoms are caused by damage to the brain, usually resulting from an interruption of blood supply or by a hemorrhage (bleeding) in the brain.

Vascular Neurologists

There are a number of reasons why you may need to see a vascular neurologist. If have difficult to manage stroke risk factors, if you are seen in the hospital within a few hours of having a stroke, if you have an unexplained stroke, if you have recurrent strokes, and if you have unusual effects of a stroke.

Stroke Risk Factors

If you have blood vessel abnormalities in the brain, such as a brain aneurysm (a swollen section of an artery that can tear) or an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), this can increase your risk of having a stroke. the decision making about whether you should be taking a blood thinner, whether you should have a procedure to repair the blood vessel is fairly complicated, and you may need to see a vascular neurologist to asses your risks and benefits of various treatment options.

Blood clotting disorders also increase the risk of strokes, and these are generally lifelong conditions that require a long term stroke prevention treatment strategy.

Acute Stroke Management

If you are able to get to the hospital within a few hours of the beginning of your stroke symptoms, you have a better chance of recovery. Stroke treatments, including the powerful blood thinner tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), are far more effective and safe when administered within the first few hours of stroke symptoms before permanent damage occurs.

Unexplained Stroke

There are a number of common stroke risk factors. Most of the time, one or more risk factors is identified as the cause of a stroke.

If you have had a stroke without a clear cause, this is referred to as a cryptogenic stroke, and you might be referred to a vascular neurologist for further diagnostic testing, and for a plan regarding stroke prevention strategies.

Recurrent Strokes

If you have had recurrent strokes, such as in multi infarct dementia, you may need to see a stroke neurologist, especially if your recurrent strokes are cryptogenic.

Unusual Effects

The effects of a stroke generally involve language problems, physical weakness, or problems with vision. Sometimes, however, a person can experience unexpected personality changes, such as emotional behavior that seems out of character, or that doesn't necessarily match up with the damaged area in the brain.

A stroke neurologist can help determine whether unexplained or unexpected symptoms are related to the stroke.

Young Age or High Risk

If you have a particularly high risk situation, such as a stroke during pregnancy, or if your baby has had a stroke, you may need a consultation with a stroke neurologist, who may follow you regularly to identify and manage stroke risk factors. Similarly, if your teenager has had a stroke, a stroke neurologist can help manage long term effects and focus on prevention of future strokes.

A Word From Verywell

Years ago, there was little that doctors could do to treat strokes, due to the lack of diagnostic techniques and effective treatments. However, over the past few decades, neurologists and other physicians have developed multiple new and effective approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent strokes, resulting in substantially improved stroke care. Your stroke care team includes doctors, nurses and therapists. If you have had a stroke, there are a number of post stroke rehabilitative techniques, including electrical therapy and mirror therapy,

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