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:
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