Stroke is a brain injury caused by an interruption in blood flow. Brain tissue that does not get oxygen and nutrients from blood can die within minutes. The damage to the brain can cause a sudden loss in bodily functions. The types of function that are affected will depend on the part of the brain that is damaged.
There are two blood flow problems that cause a stroke. Strokes may be ischemic or hemorrhagic.
An ischemic stroke is caused by a blocked blood vessel. It is the most common cause of stroke.
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel.
An ischemic stroke occurs when something stops the flow of blood. It may be a buildup or swelling of the walls of the blood vessels and/or something in the blood that becomes stuck in the blood vessel. A blockage in a small blood vessel will affect a smaller area of the brain. A blockage in larger blood vessels can block the flow of blood to several smaller blood vessels, leading to more brain damage.
The blockage may be the result of one or more of the following:
Atherosclerosis—a build-up of fatty substances along the inner lining of the artery that gradually decrease the area the blood can flow through
A blood clot that has traveled from other parts of the body such as the neck or heart
Symptoms occur suddenly. Exact symptoms will depend on the part of the brain affected. Rapid treatment is important to decrease the amount of brain damage. Brain tissue without blood flow dies quickly.
Call for emergency medical services right away if you notice any of the following sudden symptoms:
Weakness or numbness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Trouble speaking or understanding
Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Lightheadedness, trouble walking, loss of balance, or coordination
Certain patients will receive a group of drugs called thrombolytics. These medications can rapidly dissolve blood clots. They are often given by IV but can be delivered directly to the arteries where the blood clot is. These medications need to be given within hours after the start of symptoms to be effective. That is why it is important to get medical help right away if stroke symptoms develop.
Aspirin and other medications that decrease the risk of blood clot formation may be recommended after immediate care is done. These medications may prevent future strokes from occurring.
To help manage other health issues and decrease the risk of future strokes the doctor may recommend medication to:
Furie KL, Kasner SE, Adams RJ, et al. Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2010 October 21. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated October 21, 2010. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Ischemic stroke. American Heart Association American Stroke Association website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated November 7, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Long term management of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated October 28, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Neuroimaging for acute stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated May 15, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Stroke (acute management). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated October 24, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.
What is stroke? National Stroke Association website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed November 18, 2013.
11/20/06 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php: Mas JL, Chatellier G, Beyssen B, et al. Endarterectomy versus stenting in patients with symptomatic severe carotid stenosis.
N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1726-1729.
12/16/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Farquhar C, Marjoribanks J, Lethaby A, Suckling J, Lamberts Q. Long term hormone therapy for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
10/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Mitchell PH, Veith RC, Becker KJ, et al. Brief psychosocial-behavioral intervention with antidepressant reduces poststroke depression significantly more than usual care with antidepressant: living well with stroke: randomized, controlled trial.
3/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Park Y, Subar AF, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A.
Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.
Arch Intern Med. 2011 Feb 14. [Epub ahead of print]
2/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Bushnell C, et al.
AHA/ASA Guideline for the Prevention of Stroke in Women.
Stroke. 2014 Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]