Patients experience a stroke when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This interruption is caused by bleeding inside the brain, (hemorrhagic stroke) or when a blood vessel in or supplying blood to or from the brain becomes blocked (ischemic stroke). Stroke can be fatal if not caught and treated quickly. Even if it doesn’t prove fatal, stroke usually causes brain damage that results in a disability in movement or speech that can or cannot be reversed, so stroke prevention is the first line of defense.
Symptoms of stroke usually occur quite suddenly, and can cause brain damage just a few hours after onset:
- Changes in personality or mood
- Difficulty swallowing
- Double vision
- Drooping eye
- Falling suddenly
- Inability to speak clearly
- Loss of balance
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory
- Partial loss of vision in one eye
- Temporary loss of control of limb movement
- Uncontrollable eye movements
- Unsteadiness or vertigo
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness in a limb
Hemorrhagic strokes can also cause headaches that are sudden and severe, vomiting and/or nausea, and even seizures.
Risk Factors for Stroke
The primary cause of ischemic stroke is atherosclerosis, while hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a variety of other health conditions, as well as from using certain prescribed medications, and abusing cocaine.
There are several risk factors for stroke, including:
- Being African American
- Diseases of the arteries
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Family history of stroke
- Heart disease;
- High cholesterol;
- History of heart attack or stroke
- Lack of exercise
- Male gender
- Older patients
Stroke is a severe medical emergency that is most often best treated in a hospital ICU. Treatment options vary, depending on on whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. For example, ischemic stroke can be treated with a variety of treatments of increasing levels of invasiveness, ranging from changes in lifestyle, to medication treatments, to carotid endarterectomy and stenting. Hemorrhagic stroke patients usually undergo surgical or minimally invasive techniques to stop the bleeding in the brain.