Stroke is caused by interrupted or reduced blood supply to a part of the brain preventing the brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients causing the brain cells to die within minutes. This is a medical emergency and early action is critical to reduce brain damage and complications.
There are three types of strokes- ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and transient ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type and happens when the brain’s vessels become narrowed or blocked reducing blood supply to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused due to leak or rupture of a blood vessel due to high blood pressure, overtreatment with blood thinners, bulges or weak spots in your blood vessels, and protein deposits in the blood vessel walls.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is also known as a mini stroke is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those if someone had a stroke. TIA does not cause permanent damage and is caused by temporary decrease in blood supply to the brain which lasts as little as five minutes. Having a TIA increases your chances of having a full blown stroke later.
Symptoms of stroke include trouble speaking and understanding what the others are saying, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, problem seeing in one or both eyes, and trouble walking. Stroke can be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and saturated fat in diet, quitting tobacco, diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.
Stroke can lead to temporary or permanent disabilities depending on how long the brain lacked blood flow and which part was affected. Complications include- paralysis or loss of muscle movement, difficulty walking or swallowing, memory loss or thinking difficulties, emotional problems, pain, and changes in behavior and self-care ability.
Diagnosis is made on the results of physical examination, blood tests, CT scan, MRI, carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, and echocardiogram. Treatment depends on whether the patient suffered an ischemic stroke (interrupted blood supply to the brain) or a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain).
Treatment of ischemic stroke focuses on restoring blood supply to the brain at the earliest. This is done by using medication and emergency procedures, if needed, to remove clots from the brain. Treatment of Hemorrhagic stroke is focused on controlling bleeding and reducing pressure within the brain. Treatment options include emergency measures to counteract effects of blood thinning medications, surgery, and endovascular embolization. Rehabilitation after initial recover is focused on restoring movement and speech.
Information about current clinical trials can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov. Supporting organizations include Stroke Center, American Stroke Association, World Stroke Organization, and Stroke Recovery Foundation.