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What Causes Stroke? Its Symptoms & Treatments

Team AckoSept 23, 2022

When a blood vessel bursts or a blockage in blood flow occurs, the brain loses oxygen and suffers a stroke. Strokes can damage or kill parts of the brain. Depending on the severity of the stroke, long-term disabilities or death may also occur. Getting treatment for a stroke as soon as possible can minimise the damage to the brain. If you know the signs and symptoms of stroke, you might be able to save a life—perhaps even your own.

Learn everything you need to know about a stroke in this blog.

Stroke Diseases

What Is a Stroke?

Strokes are cerebrovascular diseases, and they are a result of interrupted or reduced blood flow to the brain, due to blockages or bleeding of blood vessels. In this situation, brain cells die because they lack oxygen and nutrients. This is an emergency medical situation. Even though most strokes can be treated, some can be fatal.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of stroke vary depending on the type. Strokes are generally more likely to affect people with the following pre-existing conditions:

  • Overweight or obese

  • Over the age of 55

  • Have a history of strokes in their family 

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

  • Have carotid artery disease, heart disease, or another vascular disease

  • Have a sedentary lifestyle

  • Overconsume alcohol

  • Smoke

  • Consume illicit substances

There are a few different types of strokes. To learn more about these and their symptoms, keep reading.

Symptoms of a Stroke

Strokes often present themselves without warning. Here are a few of the main symptoms:

  • An inability to speak or understand speech due to confusion.

  • Headache, vomiting, or altered consciousness.

  • Face, arm, or leg numbness or incapacity to move, especially on one side of the body.

  • Problems with one or both eyes when it comes to vision.

  • Having difficulty walking, with dizziness and coordination problems.

Strokes can cause long-term health problems. After a stroke, a person may even suffer from temporary or permanent disabilities depending on how quickly they receive diagnosis and treatment.

Some people may experience:

  • Problems with bladder or bowel control

  • Depressive disorder

  • An asymmetrical weakness or paralysis

  • An inability to control or express their emotions

It is important to note that symptoms vary in severity.

How Are Strokes Treated?

Stroke treatments depend on several factors. Among them are the type and duration of the illness. You'll be more likely to recover better after a stroke if you seek help as soon as possible.

A good way to remember stroke symptoms and treatment is to learn the acronym "FAST". In this way, a person can seek treatment as soon as possible. The acronym FAST means:

  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop when the person smiles?

  • Arm weakness: Does one arm move downward when the person raises both arms?

  • Speech difficulty: Does the person's speech sound slurred or unusual when they repeat a simple phrase?

  • Time to act: Contact emergency services immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Treatment speed affects the outcome. A prompt diagnosis and treatment will reduce the risk of permanent brain damage and death.

Different Types of Strokes

Ischemic stroke, transient ischemic attack, and hemorrhagic stroke are the three most common types of stroke. Following are the causes and treatments for these particular strokes:

Transient Ischemic Attack

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are also known as ministrokes or warnings. Any temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain can cause a TIA. Blood clots and TIA symptoms usually last for a short period.

Causes

In TIAs, blood flow to the brain is interrupted only briefly. In the same way as ischemic strokes, these are caused by blood clots. Even if they are temporary, TIAs should be  treated as medical emergencies. TIAs in most cases are warning signs for future strokes, and they indicate that an artery is partially blocked or that a clot is causing the stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over a third of people who suffer a TIA within a year will suffer a major stroke if not treated. 

Treatment

The treatment of TIA includes taking Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications that reduce the risk of future strokes. Antiplatelets lessen the chances of your blood; clotting due to platelets sticking together. Clopidogrel (Plavix) and aspirin (aspirin based NSAIDs) are antiplatelet medications. The purpose of anticoagulants is to reduce the buildup of clotting proteins in the body. Dabigatran (Pradaxa) and warfarin (Coumadin) are two examples of these medications.

There is also the possibility; that your doctor will recommend a surgery called a carotid endarterectomy. During this procedure, plaque is removed from the neck's carotid artery, which is one of the leading causes of stroke. 

Ischemic Stroke

According to studies, 87 per cent of strokes are ischemic. This stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Often, blood clots are caused by atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in blood vessels. Occasionally, some parts of these fat deposits can become detached and block blood flow. In contrast to a TIA, an ischemic stroke cannot be cured without treatment.

Causes

In this type of stroke, the blood supply to the brain is obstructed or narrowed by blockages in the arteries. The result is ischemia, which damages brain cells due to reduced blood flow. Ischemic stroke is often caused by blood clots.

Blood clots can form in blood vessels in the brain and elsewhere in the body. The bloodstream then transports these to the brain's narrower arteries. The deposits of fatty plaques in the arteries can also cause clots, resulting in ischemia.

Treatment

You receive treatment for ischemic stroke, depending on how quickly you reach a hospital. In addition, your medical history also plays a role.

Your doctor may be able to treat this type of stroke with a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) if you seek treatment within three hours. By administering this medication via IV, the clot can be dissolved. Due to bleeding risks, tPA is not suitable for everyone. Taking into account your medical history is essential before administering tPA.

Your doctor can also physically remove the clot or administer medications to break it up.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or breaks, allowing blood to spill into surrounding tissues. The most common type of hemorrhagic stroke is intracerebral haemorrhage. This happens when an artery bursts, flooding brain tissue with blood. Another type of hemorrhagic stroke is subarachnoid haemorrhage. They are less common. A subarachnoid haemorrhage occurs when bleeding occurs between the thin tissues covering the brain.

Causes

Hemorrhagic strokes can occur due to leaky or ruptured arteries in the brain. Blood leaks damage brain cells by putting pressure on them. Additionally, it reduces the blood supply to brain tissues after a haemorrhage.

If a blood vessel bursts in the brain or near the brain surface, blood can spill into the brain. A blood vessel can leak or burst if you have hypertension, experience physical trauma, take blood-thinning medication, or have an aneurysm.

Treatment

A hemorrhagic stroke is treated by stopping brain bleeding and managing its side effects. An increase in intracranial pressure may be one of the side effects. The surgical procedure may involve clipping or coiling. They prevent further bleeding from the blood vessel.

You may be prescribed medications to lower intracranial pressure. Transfusions can also be needed to increase your blood's clotting capacity to stop bleeding.

Conclusion

Immediately seek emergency medical treatment if you suspect you're having a stroke.

It is only possible to administer clot-busting medication in the first few hours following the onset of stroke symptoms. You will likely avoid long-term complications and disabilities if you receive early treatment. Though a stroke cannot always be completely prevented, lifestyle changes can help reduce your stroke risk.

If you are at risk for a stroke, your doctor will work with you to determine the best strategy for prevention, including medical intervention and lifestyle modifications.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What's the connection between strokes and seizures?

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Having a stroke increases your risk of having a seizure. The brain is injured during a stroke. Brain injuries lead to scar tissue formation, affecting your brain's electrical activity. The disruption of electrical activity can lead to seizures.

Why can't some patients identify their stroke symptoms?

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The damage to the brain caused by stroke prevents one from being able to perceive one's problems accurately. Stroke patients may appear unaware or confused to bystanders.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

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  • Strokes are four to six times more likely to occur if you have high blood pressure. 

  • You are more likely to suffer a stroke with heart disease, especially atrial fibrillation. 

  • Additionally, smokers, diabetics, the obese, and people with a family history of stroke are at a higher risk.

Is stroke genetic?

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Research has shown that people with a family history of stroke have a higher risk of suffering from one.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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