A stroke is a neurological condition where there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain. This disruption in blood flow causes areas of the brain to be starved of oxygen, leading to permanent damage. The extent of damage depends on the severity of the stroke and the part of the brain affected. There are two types of stroke, an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for about 87% of all stroke cases. Regardless of the type of stroke, the symptoms of stroke are the same.
Types of stroke
In an ischemic stroke, the disruption of blood flow to the brain is caused by a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. The clot may be formed in an artery in the brain (called a thrombus) or the clot may be formed elsewhere, and then travels to the brain to cause the blockage (in this case, the clot is called an embolus).
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and causes bleeding into the brain. The burst blood vessel may be within the brain (an intracerebral hemorrhage) or on the surface of the brain (a subarachnoid hemorrhage).
There is a third type of “stroke”, which is not technically considered a stroke but should still be considered to be just as serious. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a mini stroke, has symptoms identical to that of a normal stroke. The difference between a stroke and a TIA is that the blockage of the blood vessel in the brain is only temporary, with most attacks lasting less than five minutes and no permanent brain damage is sustained. However, experiencing a TIA places a person at a greatly increased risk of experiencing a stroke so proper medical treatment of a TIA is needed.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency and an ambulance should be called immediately if you notice anyone experiencing the following signs of stroke, as per the Stroke Association.
1) Sudden numbness and/or weakness of the face, arm or leg – particularly on one side of the body
2) Sudden confusion, inability to speak
3) Sudden loss of balance, difficulty walking, loss of coordination
4) Sudden vision difficulties
5) Sudden severe headache
Consequences of stroke
The consequences of having a stroke can range from mild impairment (such as permanent numbness on one side of the body); to severe disability (such as loss of balance and coordination). The degree of impairment experienced after having a stroke depends on what part of the brain was affected, how severe the stroke was and how quickly medical attention was obtained after the signs of stroke were first displayed. Some of the consequences of having a stroke may include the following:
*Weakness and paralysis on one side of the body
*Difficulty speaking or understanding written or spoke language
*Balance and coordination problems
*Loss of bladder and bowel control
*Loss of learning abilities
Anyone can have a stroke, but some people are at higher risk that others due to certain conditions and other risk factors. Having heart disease and high blood pressure are major risk factors, as well as smoking, being overweight or obese, having diabetes and being physically inactive. A stroke is a serious medical condition with potentially devastating effects, so taking measures to reduce your risk of having a stroke is the best way to try and prevent it from happening to you.
For more information on stroke in your region, visit the National Stroke Association (US); the National Stroke Foundation (Australia) or the National Stroke Association (UK).
This article is of a general nature and in no way should be seen as a substitute for your own doctor’s or health professional’s advice. The author accepts no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of the published information. Before commencing any health treatment, always consult your doctor.