A stroke is the loss of blood flow to different parts of the brain preventing the oxygen and blood from getting to the brain; this causes brain cells to die. A stroke can also be called cerebrovascular disease (CVA) or a “brain attack.” Ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke are the two major types of strokes.
When the blood loss is caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel, it is an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are separated into two different categories – the thrombotic stroke from a clot forming in a artery that is already narrow and a the embolic stroke from a clot traveling from a different part of the body and traveling to the brain before blocking the flow of blood. Clogged arteries can also cause an ischemic stroke. When a blood vessel becomes week and bursts causing blood to leak into the brain it is called a hemorrhagic stroke.
The risks for having stroke can be caused by a variety of situations. The highest risk factor for a stroke is having high blood pressure. Some other important risk factors are family history, diabetes, high cholesterol, arterial fibrillation and race. Unhealthy lifestyle choices can also contribute to a higher chance of having a stroke. Some of these choices are being obese, heavy drinking, and increased consumption of salt or fat, smoking and illegal drug use.
Symptoms of a stroke can vary and usually develop suddenly. Some of the symptoms are headaches, changes in alertness, hearing issues, confusion and difficulty with fine motor skills. Other signs of a stroke are swallowing difficulties, loss of control over bowel and bladder movements, muscle weakness and numbness or tingling on one side of the body.
Someone showing a doctor will diagnose a combination of these symptoms after a variety of tests is performed. These tests will usually include an angiogram of the head, ultrasounds of the blood vessels in the neck, CT scan of the brain, and a MRA. A few other tests such as an electrocardiogram and complete blood count may also be applied.
Once diagnosed the treatment for strokes vary depending on the severity and cause of the stroke. Many treatments will include thrombolytic therapy, blood thinners and even surgery to help reduce the blood clot. Other medication will be used to control symptoms and causes of the stroke such as medication for high blood pressure. A person may recover completely from a stroke and others may suffer from a permanent loss of function.