Stroke Causes, Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Stroke or also known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is a condition in which the brain does not receive enough blood supply thus resulting into a brain attack.

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A human brain cell requires constant supply of oxygen and glucose through the blood stream for it to function. When the blood supply is disrupted to any part of the brain, it causes brain cells to die. When a part of the brain dies, the affected area would result to inability to function which leads to stroke and neurological damage. When a person is having a stroke, immediate help should be the utmost priority to avoid more serious damage.

Blood flow can be disrupted by a variety of reasons, including:

• Blockage of an artery

There are several reasons why the artery is blocked; narrowing of the small arteries, when the anterior and posterior blood circulation is narrowed caused by an atherosclerosis (result of accumulation of fatty materials like cholesterol) or plaque, and when some blood clots originating from the heart travels down into the brain’s arteries which cause stroke.

• Hemorrhage or internal bleeding

The most common cause of cerebral hemorrhage is the uncontrollable high blood pressure. Other causes may include brain aneurysm, low platelet count, broken or ruptured blood vessel, anticoagulant medications, and severe head trauma.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic stroke

Ischemic stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is blocked or decreased which leads to brain dysfunction on the part of the affected area. Blockage happens when a clot occurs on one of the arteries called atherosclerosis. Some causes of blood clots are plaque buildup, blood clots that originate from the heart and other parts of the body, carotid artery dissection, and certain types of drugs or medications can cause blockage on the blood vessel.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels weakens and bursts open. Some causes of hemorrhagic stroke are as follows: high blood pressure, cocaine use, abnormal protein deposits, traumatic brain injury, bleeding disorders (like hemophilia, leukemia, low blood platelets, and more), brain tumors, liver disease with bleeding, and certain medications like aspirin. Find more information on  Hemorrhagic stroke symptoms and treatment.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA or mini-stroke)

TIA or mini stroke happens when blood supply is temporarily interrupted. TIA is often a warning sign for a possibility of a major stroke. Someone with TIA should take it seriously and have it checked right away to find the cause of clotting and to prevent any further serious damage. Causes include blood clots in the tiny arteries; falling debris can block blood vessels and stop the blood flow; blood clots from the heart can get caught in the tiny blood vessel resulting to blockage; and leakage and bleeding in the brain tissues can cause the small blood vessel’s wall to become thin and weak.

Cervical Artery Dissection (CAD)

For young adults under 40, the most common cause of stroke is cervical artery dissection. It causes a tear in the carotid artery lining or in the neck causing it to narrow down and restrict blood supply. Causes can either be spontaneous or traumatic. Spontaneous means that it could be a cause of an inherited disease while traumatic means a recent severe incident that affected the head or neck.

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Causes and Risk Factors of Stroke

The main cause of stroke is the cutting off of blood supply in the brain. It can be a cause of blockage in the artery, embolic stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, vasculitis, and migraine headache. And the most common risk factors for stroke includes:

• High blood pressure

• Smoking

• High cholesterol

• Age

• Diabetes

• Head injury

• Overweight or obesity

• Not physically active

• Family history of stroke or heart disease

• Abnormal heart beat

• Heavy drinking (regularly)

• Illegal drugs like cocaine

Stroke Symptoms

When brain cells are deprived from receiving enough oxygen they tend not to perform their usual task. Common symptoms of stroke are mild to severe headache, sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, confusion or trouble speaking and understanding, troubles with their eyesight, loss of balance, sensation changes, and many other functions controlled by the brain. Read more about stroke warning signs

When such symptoms occur to a person you know, ask the patient to do the following actions; smile, raise both hands, and speak a simple sentence. These actions help determine how serious the stroke is and if the victim is unable to do any of those actions then seek medical help immediately from the nearest hospital or call 911. And while waiting for an ambulance here are a few helpful suggestions; keep the affected person lie flat on the floor but if drowsiness or nausea is present position the patient at his side to avoid choking, and lastly, do not give any medications especially aspirin to the affected person for it can make matters worse.

Diagnosis of Stroke

A person who has a stroke should be treated with medical emergency. Immediate evaluation and treatment should be given to stroke victims. They will undergo a number of tests to determine the type of stroke. This allows doctors to plan how the treatment will be.

• Laboratory examination like blood test, and other tests

• Computerized tomography or CT scan

• MRI scan or magnetic resonance imaging

• ECG and Urinalysis

Treatment for Stroke

The treatment of stroke depends on its type and symptoms. A stroke patient upon reaching the hospital will be given fluids to treat dehydration; oxygen; for those who have difficulty swallowing would be refrained from eating or drinking at the moment to avoid choking. When caused by a high blood pressure, medical treatment will be given to lower the blood pressure. Oftentimes surgery is recommended for severe type of stroke to remove arteries’ fatty deposits or to drain the blood out from the brain. And once all the other medical problems are treated, rehabilitation is recommended to help stroke patients regain their normal functional abilities.

Prevention of Stroke

On cases with an inherited disease, it is better to take extra care not to trigger any of the risk factors. To help lower the risk of stroke, a person must check his/her daily lifestyle; keep exercise as a daily habit, quit smoking, improving the diet/ checking the food intake, moderate drinking of liquor, control of diabetes and high blood pressure, and most of all knowing the symptoms of stroke. When signs occur, act immediately and seek medical help. Like everyone said, prevention is better than cure.

Stroke Video

See how stroke affects the human body in this video

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